Ofcom are consulting on proposed changes to their Access Services Code and best practice guidelines which influence the presentation and provision of subtitles and signing on television.
These proposed changes include improved guidance for broadcasters to ensure that they are delivering the best quality access services possible, as well as being expanded to include video-on-demand providers which previously were not covered by the guidelines.
Ofcom’s proposed changes
Expanding the guidance to include video-on-demand providers
In spring, 85% of people with hearing loss and who are deaf who took our Subtitle It survey told us that without subtitles they were prevented from watching their programme of choice. As more audiences are watching TV shows via on-demand services through smart TVs or websites, it is important that subtitles are available on all these services.
We support Ofcom’s change to expand their best practice guidelines to cover on-demand services such as ITV X and Channel 4, subscription services like Now and Amazon Prime Video as well as linear TV (traditional channels such as BBC 2, ITV 1 or Channel 4).
Personalising accessibility features
Ofcom have said that a ‘one size fits all’ approach is no longer necessary in view of the way programmes are now delivered across different services and different devices such as tablets, phones and laptops.
They are proposing to remove some of their more rigid guidelines (for example, the way subtitles should be presented with specific fonts/colours) in favour of more outcomes based results. Their intention is to give more flexibility and options to personalise subtitles such as making them easier to read, visibility against backgrounds and identifying speakers.
This will benefit the 70% of you who watch programmes on phones or tablets and said that being able to change the size and positioning of subtitles is important.
Increasing the awareness of accessibility features
You told us the importance of the Government ensuring they have BSL interpreters present at any live announcements they make. Ofcom have also recognised this and are proposing changes to remind on-demand service providers that any Government announcements should be accessible to disabled people.
This also covers communication with audiences when something goes wrong with access services provision. We highlighted your frustration when subtitles were not provided as part of the Red Bee issue back in October 2021. So, we are encouraged that all our audiences will benefit from increased engagement from on-demand service providers as part of this consultation.
RNID will be writing a response to this consultation with focus on outcomes for our audiences. Now it’s time to have your say. The consultation is open for one more week. Share your feedback to Ofcom’s ‘Consultation: Ensuring the quality of TV and on-demand access services’ to help us improve access for everyone. Let’s ensure that on-demand service providers make their programmes available with subtitles whenever and wherever audiences want to access them.