Ofcom’s fourth annual report on how accessible Electronic Programme Guides are reveals disappointment at slow progress.
It has told providers of Electronic Programme Guides (EPGs) that after four years, they’ve had enough time to implement accessibility features.
Additionally, the broadcast regulator has ordered EPG providers to ramp up the availability of filtering. This allows those with visual and hearing impairments to quickly find programmes with subtitles, audio description and in-vision signing.
Ofcom says YouView hasn’t been transparent and “publicly forthcoming” on the detail of how and when it will meet Ofcom’s requirements, laid out in the EPG code. The platform has now fallen behind other providers in terms of features available to users with accessibility requirements.
In contrast, Freeview platform operator Digital UK was praised for the way it has implemented its Accessible TV Guide. Available through channel 555, Digital UK has worked with charities to improve the service. It is pursuing options to get the service rolled out to last remaining incompatible Freeview Play boxes and TVs.
But manufacturers of older TVs and boxes, built before the revised EPG code come into force in 2018 are not expected to be forced to upgrade their EPGs.
Sky has failed to implement full accessibility features on its new Sky Glass TVs. However it aims to rollout the same features currently available on Sky Q. The magnification feature is only implemented per the code on older Sky+/Sky HD boxes according to Ofcom.
Virgin Media O2 has provided Ofcom with a roadmap of how it intends to upgrade accessibility options. It’s linked with the rollout of Virgin’s latest Horizon TV platform.
Meanwhile, Ofcom says it hopes Freesat will offer better options following the merger with Digital UK.
The Four Key Accessibility Features
- Text to speech (‘TTS’): the facility to “render text needed for EPG navigation and the provision of information on channels and programmes included in the EPG as speech” TTS is a key accessibility feature for those with more serious sight impairment.
- Highlighting or filtering: the facility to “highlight or list separately programmes with audio description, and with signing”.
- Magnification: the facility to “adjust the display of EPG information so that it can be magnified, or the text enlarged”.
- High-contrast displays: the facility to “select a ‘high-contrast’ display”. A television’s contrast ratio refers to the difference in light between the brightest whites and the darkest blacks that a display can produce.
STV was originally included as an EPG provider for its streaming platform, but has recently de-registered. It was praised for the accessibility functions it had made available to online users.
Ofcom has urged all EPG providers to work with charities and user groups to ensure those with special requirements have a chance to offer feedback.
It will now initiate roundtable discussions with providers and manufacturers to further improve accessibility.