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RNIB and RNID call on Government to make on-demand TV content accessible

We have partnered with RNID (The Royal National Institute for Deaf People) to write to the Minister for Digital Infrastructure, Matt Warman, urging the Government to fulfil its commitments to make catch up services accessible.

The Government was given the power to regulate video on demand services and set minimum levels for subtitled, audio described and signed content in 2017. But this law has not been implemented.

After two public consultations held by the media regulator Ofcom the Government recently received the final recommendations for how the law should be applied. It is now up to the Government to deliver and find the time in Parliament to pass the secondary legislation.

Back in 2017, following two years of RNIB and RNID campaigning, the Government was given the power to set minimum levels for subtitled, audio described and signed content in relation to Video On Demand (VOD) services. However, people with sight, or hearing, loss are unable to enjoy many online catch up and streaming services.

The latest recommendations 

If implemented, Ofcom’s recommendations would ensure that at least 80 per cent of on-demand content has subtitles available, 10 per cent has Audio Description (AD) available and five per cent has signing available. Small providers may be entitled to exemptions.

According to Ofcom, its recommendations provide “proportionate and targeted regulations which bring measurable progress in on-demand accessibility”. 

Although there would still be a way to go to make on demand services fully accessible, these recommendations being implemented would be very positive step.  

Sonali Rai, Broadcaster Relationship and Audio Description Manager at RNIB, said:

Video On Demand services have become increasingly popular . We urgently need the Government to take action and ensure that blind and partially sighted viewers have access to the same programmes as their sighted peers.