Channels holding a UK licence but broadcast to an overseas market will be required to run signing and subtitling under new proposals from Ofcom.
The Audiovisual Media Services (AVMS) Directive, which came into force in December 2009, requires Member States to ‘encourage media service providers [including broadcasters] under their jurisdiction to ensure that their services are gradually made accessible to people with a visual or hearing disability’.
Ofcom already has measures in place to ensure domestic channels make their services gradually more accessible to people with visual or hearing disability. It is being proposed that this will now be extended to non-domestic broadcasters that are likely to include Discovery Channel, AXN, BBC Entertainment, Extreme Sports and Viasat.
An official list of such channels required to provide access services will be published after the consultation.
Licensees would need to meet the subtitling and audio description targets set out in Ofcom’s Code, rising progressively from 10% for subtitling and 2% for audio description in 2014, to 80% and 10% audio description respectively within ten years. If the cost of meeting these targets in full exceeded 1% of the relevant turnover of a channel, the subtitling targets could be reduced substantially. No change would be made to audio description or signing quotas. Only if a licensee could not afford to meet the reduced targets would a broadcaster be exempted altogether from providing access services.
Local language subtitling to foreign programming, intended for all viewers, would be included as part of the quota allowance.
The consultation closes on July 11, 2012.