Just before Christmas 2018, the British communications regulator Ofcom published its long-awaited Recommendations to Government on making On Demand Programming Services (ODPS) accessible. Until now, Ofcom regulations for the provision of Access Services (i.e. Subtitling for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, Audio Description for the Blind and Vision Impaired and British Sign Language Translation) had been limited to traditional, linear broadcast TV services.

Ofcom, and previously ATVOD (active 2010-2015), have been tracking levels of Access Services for some time now – but since the introduction of the Digital Economy Act 2017 they have had the opportunity to extend this regulation onto ODPS platforms.

Ofcom has taken the dynamic and growing nature of the online video market into consideration and intends to introduce regulations which will increase the accessibility of streaming and on-demand content both now and in future.

It has recommended that the regulations follow the approach established for broadcast accessibility: a system of targets with flexible exemptions. More specifically, they recommend that the regulations mandate the following:

  • Within 4 years of the regulations coming into force, ODPS providers will be required to offer Subtitling on 80% of their catalogue, Audio Description on 10% and Signing on 5%
  • There will be an interim 2-year target of 40%, 5% and 5% respectively
  • Ofcom may consider exemptions from, or reductions in, these targets on the basis of Audience benefit, Affordability and Technical difficulty; in certain circumstances they may also consider alternative arrangements

To ensure compliance with the proposed code, Ofcom will require regular, comprehensive reporting. They are likely to require that ODPS providers report annually to Ofcom on the extent to which and how they have met the requirements, and on their plans to continuously and progressively make their services more accessible. They will also require reporting on the qualitative aspects and effectiveness of the Access Services provided.

Ofcom’s statement is currently being considered by the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, and as a next step Ofcom anticipates putting forward their proposals for consultation on a code for ODPS providers. If this consultation period were to be completed in 2019, Red Bee Media believes that regulations could come into force in 2021, with the interim targets applying from 2023 and the full targets from 2025.

As a contributor to Ofcom’s 2017/18 consultation, and as the largest provider of Access Services to the UK market, Red Bee Media is in the perfect position to help your organization understand the impact of these proposed regulations, and the options you have for fulfilling them in a cost-effective way – ensuring full regulatory compliance and a more engaged audience.

We would be happy to meet with you to discuss the impact of the statement, and help you plan for the changes you may be facing.

Matt Simpson, Head of Portfolio, Access Services, Red Bee Media

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