In 2024, 83 TV channels will need to offer subtitles, audio description and in-vision signing. That’s down from 93 channels in 2023.
The reduction is led by children’s channels, due to a combination of declining audience share and broadcasters closing channels down.
The rules governing which UK channels must provide subtitles, audio description and in-vision signing are set out in Ofcom’s Access Services Code. Ofcom has conducted a mid-year review of all broadcasters to determine if they meet the criteria to come under the code and be required to carry access services in the coming year. Details of all the channels on Ofcom’s list are available below.
Nickelodeon, Boomerang and Cartoon Network are among the channels that will no longer have a subtitling requirement. CITV is removed from the list as the channel is closing down this autumn.
Incidentally, other children’s channels that have been removed from the list have an uncertain future. Warner Bros Discovery (WBD), owner of Cartoon Network and Boomerang, is already adjusting its children’s channel portfolio elsewhere in the world. However, WBD hasn’t yet confirmed its plans for the UK. Meanwhile, CBBC, which remains on the Ofcom list for 2024 also faces a future shift online.
However, Ofcom is planning to widen the scope of the Access Services Code to include streaming services, so that viewers don’t miss out on subtitles, audio description and in-vision signing if a service goes online-only.
In 2024, 70 channels must carry 100% of Ofcom’s current annual targets for subtitling, signing and audio description, as well as any alternative requirements (Level 1). The remaining 13 channels have been assigned a lower tier (Level 2 or 3). This means they can offer fewer subtitled programmes (see full table below).
Level 1 (full requirements)
For any channel that’s been on air for more than 10 years, “full requirement” means 10% of programmes must carry audio description. 5% of programmes must be available with in-vision signing. BBC channels have a 100% subtitles target. ITV, STV, UTV and Channel 4 must offer subtitles on 90% of their programmes. All other channels must offer subtitles during at least 80% of their programme hours.
|Sky Sports Cricket
|Sky Sports F1
|Comedy Central Extra
|Sky Sports Football
|Sky Sports Golf
|Sky Sports Main Event
|Nick Jr 2
|Sky Sports Mix
|Sky Sports News
|Sky Sports Premier League
|Sky Cinema Action & Adventure
|Channel 3 services (ITV1, STV, UTV)
|Sky Cinema Animation
|Sky Cinema Family
|Sky Cinema Greats
|Sky Cinema Premiere
|Sky Cinema Select
|TNT Sports 1
|TNT Sports 2
|TNT Sports 3
|Sky Sports Action
|Sky Sports Arena
Level 2 (full requirements for signing and audio description; 66% of subtitling)
Level 3 (full requirements for signing and audio description; 33% of subtitling)
|Investigation Discovery (ID)
Nickelodeon, Nicktoons, Boomerang, Cartoonito and Cartoon Network are removed from the requirements. However, Nick Jr and Nick Jr 2 remain obligated to carry subtitles.
Familiar channels not required to offer Access Services (but may do on a voluntary basis) include:
- GB News
- GREAT! movies
- Talking Pictures
In 2021, Sky announced a scheme that would turn on the subtitles by default. The move followed the publication of research that indicated subtitles could improve children’s literacy skills.
[Image: An example of access services – screenshot BBC]