Department for Culture Media and Sport


Public service channels (3, 4, 5 and the BBC)

Legislation requires that at least 90% of Channel 3 and Channel 4 programmes and at least 80% of programmes on Channel 5 must be subtitled within ten years.

These targets must be reached within ten years of:

  • 1 January 2000 – Channel 3 and Channel 4
  • 1 January 1998 – Channel 5

Channel 5 have met their 80% minimum target. Ofcom’s First Quarter Report for 2010 shows that they are currently subtitling 99.1% of their programming.

The BBC achieved the target required by the Agreement between the BBC and the Secretary of State of 100% subtitling of programmes on its main channels (BBC One, BBC Two, BBC Three, BBC Four, CBeebies, CBBC and BBC News) by 2008.

All other channels

The Communications Act 2003 subtitling obligations include many other channels, whether digital terrestrial or digital satellite. Full details and current targets are set out in Ofcom’s Code on Television Access Services.

Relevant channels are required to subtitle 80% of programmes (subject to certain exemptions set out in the Code) within ten years.

A ten year period in which to satisfy the targets gives services sufficient time to plan for the introduction of them, which is important given the substantial costs involved. For those services with new obligations, the Communications Act also introduced a fixed five year interim target of 60% for subtitling to accelerate progress during the early years. This will lead to the availability of much more subtitling than might have been expected on a linear progression to 80%.

Websites of interest