We wrote previously on the Ofcom consultation on increasing the accessibility of on-demand programme services [click here] (the “Consultation”). As noted, the Consultation concluded on 16 March 2018 and Ofcom has now released its recommendations to Government on drafting regulations to improve the accessibility of regulated on-demand programming services (“ODPS”). We highlight the key points from the report below, addressing each of the key issues Ofcom highlighted in the Consultation.
What should be required?
In brief, Ofcom recommend that the regulations should require:
- Within 4 years of the regulations coming into force, ODPS providers to offer subtitling on 80% of their catalogue, audio on 10% and signing on 5%.
- An interim 2-year target of 40%, 5% and 5% respectively.
- Exemptions from, or reductions in, these targets (or alternative arrangements) on the basis of: i) audience benefit, ii) affordability and/or iii) technical difficulty.
- ODPS to provide regular and comprehensive reporting on the extent to which / how they have met the requirements and on their plans to continuously and progressively make their services more accessible.
Ofcom set out that any future regulations would be supplemented by a code setting out how ODPS providers should meet the requirements and how exemptions would be assessed. A further consultation on the content of this code would be undertaken.
Which services should the regulations cover?
The starting point is that all ODPS are made accessible (across all the platforms on which they are made available). However, Ofcom note that the regulations set out the grounds on which programmes/services will be excluded or subject to reduced or alternative requirements. In line with the previously identified core grounds identified by Ofcom in the consultation phase, Ofcom recommend that these grounds include:
- The extent of the benefit to disabled people, including size of the intended audience;
- The cost of providing the required assistance, relative to the provider’s ability to pay; and
- Technical or operational difficulty.
Ofcom note that the method by which factors (a) and (b) are assessed should be left to Ofcom’s discretion and may change over time as industry standard measures become available. Additionally Ofcom states that the regulations should allow for future review of the targets included in the requirements.
How should the regulations be introduced?
As set out above, Ofcom recommend that the regulations are introduced with targets and additional requirements. The second option of introducing a set of ‘softer’ requirements with no targets where ODPS providers publish an accessibility plan each year, for example, was not viewed as an effective way to ensure significant progress. Considering 45% of ODPS providers made none of their services accessible in the first half of 2018, despite ODPS providers having been subject to reporting requirements since 2014, this conclusion appears to be well placed.
To measure the estimated impact of the recommendations on a range of ODPS providers, Ofcom undertook an impact assessment focusing on the costs of providing the access services, the catalogue sizes of various ODPS providers and the turnover of each ODPS provider. In terms of headline costs to ODPS providers we would highlight the following key conclusions:
- likely set-up costs are estimated to be approximately £200,000 per platform; and
- taking the likely exemptions and reductions into account, the costs of meeting the requirements should be within 1% of an ODPS provider’s turnover.
For further information on the responses received and for a detailed overview of Ofcom’s consideration of the responses please see Ofcom’s “Statement: Making on-demand services accessible”. Click here.