August 2016 – Subtitles & Audio Description on Digital Services

August 2016 – Subtitles & Audio Description on Digital Services

Thank you for contacting me about people requiring subtitles and audio-description on digital services.

I appreciate your comments on this important issue. The UK is a world leader in TV access services both in extent and in quality. This includes subtitles, audio description and signing and I am encouraged that our broadcasters are committed to meeting the needs of disabled people and want to ensure that this remains the case in the future.

The Government is working with the Authority for Television on Demand (ATVOD), and others to monitor the quality and the amount of subtitles and audio description delivered online via Catch-up and On Demand services. As you may know, ATVOD published a report in 2015 on the level of subtitling, audio description, signing, and other services for people with disabilities relating to sight, hearing or both.

The findings of this report show that accessible programming can now be found on an increasing range of devices. There is good progress being made, especially on websites such as 4oD, and the development of accessible services on apps such as Demand 5 and the STV Player. However, ATVOD also said barriers remain and further work needs to take place between content providers, on-demand platform providers and broadcasters to overcome these barriers. Ministers have written to these groups to encourage them to seek innovative solutions to these problems.

I know that Ministers remain committed to seeing an improvement in the provision of accessible services for video-on-demand and will continue to monitor progress. However the Government has concluded that as progress is being made, the proposal of legislation and the introduction of targets could have a detrimental impact on what the sector has shown it is able to achieve on a voluntary basis.

Ministers have asked broadcasters, content providers and platform providers to provide them with an update on progress in this area in spring 2017.

Thank you again for taking the time to contact me.