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23 April 2024

Image is of a hand holding a remote to a television. The logo is ofcom.

In a significant move to bolster accessibility standards within television and on-demand services, Ofcom has recently updated its Access Services Code and Best Practice Guidelines. These initiatives reflect Ofcom’s dedication to ensuring equitable access to content for diverse audiences, drawing attention to regulatory differences when compared to Australia’s regulatory body, the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA).

Ofcom’s robust regulations mandate broadcasters to provide access services, including subtitles and audio description, on a designated portion of their programming. Through its Access Services Code and Best Practice Guidelines, Ofcom provides clear guidance and practical recommendations to broadcasters, aiming to facilitate seamless content engagement for individuals with visual, auditory, and cognitive disability.

While ACMA has established guidelines, there have been concerns about their effectiveness in fostering genuine accessibility across television and digital platforms.

Ofcom’s proactive approach, characterised by public consultations and commissioned research to inform regulatory updates, serves as a model for regulatory bodies worldwide. By prioritising stakeholder input and leveraging empirical evidence, Ofcom ensures that its regulatory framework remains responsive to the evolving needs of diverse audiences.

Moreover, Ofcom’s extension of guidelines to encompass a broader range of platforms, including video-on-demand providers and subscription services, highlights its forward-thinking approach to inclusivity in the digital age. By addressing accessibility challenges across various content delivery platforms, Ofcom acknowledges the changing nature of media consumption and strives to uphold accessibility standards in all media formats.

In contrast, Australia’s regulatory framework may benefit from adopting a more proactive stance akin to Ofcom’s approach.

As Ofcom sets a commendable example through its commitment to accessibility, it prompts reflection on the regulatory landscape in Australia and invites considerations for enhancing accessibility standards to ensure equitable access to media for all Australians. In a rapidly evolving global media landscape, regulatory bodies must continue prioritising inclusivity to ensure that all audiences can fully participate in media consumption.

To find out more, please read IBC’s article on Ofcom accessible updates.