A major step has been taken for everyone who has been waiting for audio description to arrive on catch-up TV services. The government have agreed to add an amendment to the Digital Economy Bill which will require audio description on Video on Demand services, bringing it more into line with broadcast services.
We've been working with other charities for a long time to persuade the government to make audio description on catch-up TV a requirement by law, so we are delighted with this decision.
Just over a year ago, the regulator for catch-up TV produced its annual report on audio description, subtitles and signing. It showed that there had been very little improvement in the levels of audio description over the previous three years. Over 2016 we lobbied the government to get this problem addressed through legislation.
Read the legislation containing the amendment:
What happens next?
This amendment to the law paves the way to audio described programmes appearing on catch-up TV, but it will take around a year for the regulator and the industry to start putting it into practice. Throughout this we will continue to work to ensure the changes happen as quickly and as effectively as possible.
Why this change needed to happen
Catch-up services include BBC iPlayer, ITV Player and Demand 5. Recent research from Ofcom shows around 70% of people now watch their favourite programmes on catch-up TV at a time that suits them, rather than when they're broadcast. Currently, most programmes that are broadcast with audio description lose that description on the catch-up service. We wanted this situation fixed, which is why we campaigned for a change in the law.
We expect the availability of audio described programmes to start increasing on catch-up TV over 2018.
Talking Electronic Programme Guides
Electronic Programme Guides contain lots of written, and therefore visual, information. This includes details about when programmes are on and whether audio description is available. Viewers can also select what they want to watch from the guide.
In 2015, communications regulator Ofcom consulted over whether TV providers (such as Virgin and Sky) should do more to make TVs accessible to blind and partially sighted people, for example whether TV providers should be required to make their Electronic Programme Guides “talk”.
Thanks to everyone who responded, your voice was heard by OfCom. We at RNIB also sent in a response, and as a result of all the responses Ofcom is now seriously considering revising its “Code of Practice” regarding the guides. To start this process Ofcom has drafted a revised Code of Practice, and is consulting upon whether to go ahead and make the changes it suggests.
Find more detailed information on Ofcom's website.