Following a consultation, on 2 December Ofcom announced decisions on a number of measures designed to improve access to non-domestic TV channels (i.e. channels licensed by Ofcom for transmission to other EU Member States). As you will know, channels licensed by Ofcom but targeted at European territories other than the UK are required to provide certain levels of subtitling, audio description and signing – albeit that certain exceptions exist for non-domestic broadcasters with smaller audiences. A channel with a “smaller audience” in this context is one whose audience share is above the audience share threshold set by Ofcom for that country, but below the audience share level at which Ofcom requires channels transmitting to that country to provide signing (in France, for example, a “smaller audience” would mean an audience share of between 0.05% and 1.07%).

The three key changes detailed in the announcement are that:

  • the transitional period for non-domestic channels with smaller audiences, originally ending on 31 December 2016, will be extended to 31 December 2017. During this period channels can continue to meet signing requirements through the provision of additional subtitling;
  • after the transitional period (i.e. from 1 January 2018), non-domestic broadcasters with smaller audiences must meet rising targets for sign language, or make rising financial contributions to Ofcom-approved alternative arrangements which progress the objective of making signing more widely available. Alternatively, where Ofcom is satisfied that sign language users in a particular target country would prefer assistance other than the signing of programmes, Ofcom may allow broadcasters to supply alternatives such as additional subtitling instead; and
  • from 1 January 2018, channels broadcasting to Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway – i.e. EEA countries where the Audiovisual Media Services Directive applies – will be required to provide access services on the same basis as those targeting EU Member States.

The full Ofcom statement can be found here: