New Funka report on TV accessibility

On a regular set, on a computer or on a phone – no matter how you watch TV, broadcasts have to be accessible. A new Funka report lays out how that might be accomplished.

Swedish law requires TV broadcasters to make their content accessible. There are two sets of requirements: one for public broadcasters, and the other for commercial broadcasters. The latter set is determined by the Swedish Press and Broadcasting Authority (MPRT).

Now, these commercial requirements are about to be updated – and in order to make them reasonable and useful requirements, MPRT asked Funka to chart the current state of the field. The assignment entailed finding out which accessibility technologies are in use, as well as investigating requirements in Norway, Finland, Ireland and Spain.

The study was based on surveys with broadcasters, disabled persons’ organisations (DPOs), and individual TV viewers with disabilities. Among other things, these surveys showed that captions remain among the most used accessibility technologies.

We also saw that automatic captions are becoming more prevalent, says Emil Gejrot, researcher at Funka. This is the case not least when it comes to smaller broadcasters, for whom captioning via speech recognition is a cost-effective alternative.

Yet some issues remain. In particular, many TV viewers with disabilities find it difficult to enable accessibility technologies, even when such technologies are provided.

The Swedish legal requirements stand out. Unlike the other countries investigated, for instance, Sweden places requirements even on very small broadcasters. Nonetheless, it is possible to learn from how monitoring is carried out elsewhere.

You might do what Spain does and use automatic auditing tools, says Emil Gejrot. Or why not create a standing DPO council for TV accessibility, like in Ireland?

Funka has compiled the results of the investigation in a written report, which was recently handed over to MPRT.

The report is well-written and gives us a good basis for deciding on new accessibility requirements for commercial broadcasters later this year, says Eva Bengtsson of MPRT.

The report, which is in Swedish, has now been published on the MPRT website.