Department for Culture Media and Sport

audio-description and signing

The Ofcom Code on Television Access Services includes minimum targets for the signing and audio description of programmes by licensees as laid down in the Communications Act 2003, which can be amended by the Secretary of State through secondary legislation.

The 2003 Act extends the Digital Terrestial Television (DTT) targets to cover digital cable and satellite services. The current targets are for 10% of programmes to be audio described and 5% of programmes to be signed by a ten year anniversary. Ofcom has set interim targets in its Code on Television Access Services.

Audio Description

Audio Description provides additional narration which fits between dialogue and describes action, body language and facial expressions. Audio description is available on channels listed in Ofcom’s Code on Television Access Services.

Audio description can be received by subscribers to digital satellite and digital cable services by adjusting the settings on their set top boxes, and by viewers of digital terrestrial channels, by purchasing a suitable receiver.

The Government’s role is to set the legislative framework within which audio description and other services for people with sensory impairments can be provided. Requiring broadcasters to meet legal targets is the most effective and practicable way to ensure the provision and expansion of these services. That is why we have extended the target for audio description on DTT to digital cable and digital satellite services.


There is no legal requirement for any one particular approach to the provision of programmes in sign language. Broadcasters can meet the requirement either by programmes being translated into sign language or programmes being made by or for deaf people and presented in sign language.