Audiovisual Media Services Directive

Audiovisual media is vital in defining the cultural landscape of modern societies and provides a primary source of information, education and entertainment, from which persons with disabilities must not be excluded.

Many persons with disabilities require access services to enjoy audiovisual content such as films, news broadcasts, concerts, talk shows, etc. There are several types of access services, but the four most popular ones are subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing (SDH), sign language interpretation, audio-description and spoken subtitles.

It is important not only to ensure that more and more audiovisual content is made accessible through the mentioned services, but also that these services are of high quality. In this regard, following standards for access services are of paramount importance.

In 2010 the European Union adopted a law called the Audiovisual Media Service Directive (AVMSD) which created an EU-wide legal framework to coordinate national legislation on all audiovisual media, both traditional TV broadcasts and on-demand services such as Netflix, Amazon Video, or Now TV. The Directive covers different aspects of audiovisual media, including concerning aspects such as prohibition of hate speech and discrimination based on disability and other grounds, commercial information on TV programs, protection of minors, independence of the national regulatory bodies that monitor audiovisual services, and the promotion of European audiovisual productions. Importantly, the Directive established legal requirement to advance accessibility of audiovisual media for persons with disabilities. In 2018 the EU updated AVMSD with stronger requirements for accessibility.

To learn more about accessibility of audiovisual media and the AVMSD, you can: