Insights Ofcom publishes Television and on-demand programme services: Access Services report for 2021


The report sets out the extent to which broadcast television channels and on-demand programme services (ODPS) carried subtitles, audio description and/or signing (Access Services) in the full calendar year 2021.

The report allows consumers to compare the extent to which traditional broadcast television and catch-up or on-demand services are accessible to people with sight and/or hearing impairments.

In Autumn 2021, several broadcasters suffered significant disruption to their broadcast operations following an incident at Red Bee Media’s broadcast centre. This included the provision of access services across both linear channels and on-demand services. The report discusses this disruption to access services on broadcasting services in the Broadcasting section.

The statutory rules for broadcast services are different to those for on-demand services. Under the Communications Act 2003, broadcast television channels are required to make a certain proportion of their programmes accessible; the Code on Television Access Services sets out these obligations.

On-demand (including catch-up) services are not currently under any statutory obligation to provide access services. However, they are encouraged to make their services progressively more accessible, and Ofcom requires ODPS providers to submit data on accessibility for this purpose.

Ofcom found that the proportion of ODPS providers responding to the request who offered subtitles continued to rise (71.4%, up from 63.8% in 2020). The provision of audio description and signing, which appeared to dip in 2020 (possibly due to pressures on production during the coronavirus pandemic), both increased in 2021. The proportion of responding providers offering audio description was 27% (up from 16.7% in 2020) and for signing that figure was 12.7% (up from 11.4% in 2020 and in line with the 2019 figure of 12.8%). To access the report, click here.