Recently, the European Parliament and the Council of the European Union reached a political agreement on the Audiovisual Media Service Directive (AVMSD) revision. Among many others, it will include an article on the accessibility of media services, which will be stronger compared to the article in the previous directive: the 2010 directive only called upon to Member States to encourage media service providers in their country to ensure that their services are gradually made accessible to people who are deaf, hard of hearing, blind or partially sighted, but it did not create any obligations.
As the finalised text has not been published yet, we currently cannot communicate the exact wording. However, according to the European Disability Forum, the article dedicated to accessibility will contain the following elements:
- An obligation for Member States to ensure that public and commercial TV channels, as well as video on-demand platforms (such as Netflix) will make their services continuously and progressively accessible to persons with disabilities.
- A recital (the legally non-binding part of the text) in which the four main access services will be mentioned: subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing, sign language interpretation, audio description and spoken subtitles.
- Reporting obligations on accessibility for audiovisual media services providers and for Member States, which will report to the European Commission about the progress they made in the area of accessibility.
- A single and accessible contact point to provide information and to receive complaints from viewers regarding accessibility.
- Member States will also ensure that emergency information, including public communications and announcements in natural disaster situations, which is broadcasted to the public through audiovisual media services, is provided in an accessible manner.
The European Parliament press release on this topic is available here (accessible in all EU countries): http://www.europarl.europa.eu/news/en/press-room/20180423IPR02332/audiovisual-media-agreement-reached-on-new-media-services-directive
The formal adoption of the directive in the European Parliament is currently foreseen for the European Parliament plenary session in October or November 2018. Once adopted, it will have to be transposed into national law of EU member states and will create new obligations for media broadcasters and Member States. At that point, we will be available for advice and support to NADs with regards to advocacy work for a strong transposition into national law.