Insights Access Services: Ofcom announces changes to Code and Guidelines


Ofcom has announced changes to its Access Services Code and Best Practice Guidelines, following a consultation last year.

The changes are aimed at improving the accessibility of TV and on-demand programmes through services such as subtitles, signing and audio description. As Ofcom explains, notwithstanding the fact that broadcasters are currently required to provide such so-called ‘access services’ (and it is anticipated that video on-demand services will also be required to under the Media Bill) audiences increasingly expect them to be available. The new Code and Guidance aims to ensure that these services are of sufficiently high quality to serve their purpose.

In order to achieve this, the new Code introduces ‘quality standards’, against which broadcasters’ access services will be judged. For example, in addition to all services being assessed as to their accuracy, subtitles will be assessed according to their ‘readability’, ‘presentation style’ and ‘synchronicity’, audio description services will be judged against factors such as ‘comprehensibility’ and ‘audibility, and “synchronicity and ‘visibility’ will count towards meeting the new quality standards for signing. The new Code also impresses upon broadcasters the need to ensure that audiences are made aware of the availability of these services, and that if circumstances arise meaning that services will not be available, that “timely information” is provided to audiences by “appropriate and effective means”.

The Guidelines have been updated to reflect these changes and provide further assistance to broadcasters as to how to meet the new requirements in the Code. They also offer guidance to video on-demand services on the basis that Ofcom considers that the Guidelines are “relevant for any provider of TV-like content”. Specific changes to the Guidelines include recommendations on: serving people with cognitive and neurodevelopmental conditions; customisation options, including the use of multiple access services at the same time; increasing the availability of – and making it easier to find – access services; how to monitor the quality of services; and making emergency information and moments of national importance accessible (something that is also touched on in the Code).

More information can be found here.