The AVMS was revised in 2018, but the question under discussion in this event was – has it really made any media accessibility progress for persons with disabilities?
The event was opened by Ms Sia Karttunen, Legal Officer at the European Commission, who provided an outline of the revised AVMSD, saying that the first version of the Directive (adopted in 2013) did not include direct obligations concerning accessibility. However, the revised Directive reinforces this as an obligation for accessibility as well as additional reporting obligations. For instance, the European Regulators Group for Audio Visual Media Services (ERGA) must exchange best practices of the regulatory framework, including on accessibility. In fact, ERGA published a report in 2021 on “New rules on accessibility -a common understanding of ‘proportionate measures (Article 7.1)”. With regards to the implementation of the rules, the level of transposition varies considerably from country to country due to the different service providers, services and programmes. The European Commission will issue an application report on the new rules of the AVMSD, including on accessibility, during the first half of 2023.
Mr Gion Linder, Chair of the Access Services Expert Group, European Broadcasting Union (EBU), provided an overview of EBU’s work on accessibility. For example, EBU conducted an access services survey in 2022 with the aim of having an overview and to underline that accessibility has become an asset for broadcasters. However, a disappointing result of the survey showed that only 7% of the broadcasting content in the EU is signed. On this topic, Ms Shanta Arul, Director, Global Technology and innovation public policy Officer at Netflix, explained that they have improved the media accessibility in their audio-visual content. For instance, there are now subtitles for deaf and hard of hearing.
Finally, some Organisations of Persons with Disabilities (OPDs) were able to provide some input on the revision of the AVSMD. Mr Antoine Fobe, Head of Campaigns at the European Blind Union, mentioned that the revised Directive does not reflect the obligations of the Member States under the UN CRPD to consult OPDs. Further, Mr Fobe highlighted that it does not express exactly how service providers should improve accessibility but merely mentions this should be done by “proportionate measures” – this language is objective and too vague to make a real difference.
This Directive is important for EUD to follow in terms of its implementation, from the deaf perspective, at national level. EUD welcomes any feedback from its member organisations (National Associations of the Deaf) on the improvements of lack thereof, for deaf persons in terms of their accessibility to audio-visual media services at national level. Unfortunately, as it’s a Directive, there are many divergences in its implementation so this must continually be monitored to ensure effective results.