Regulations on accessibility

Television programmes must be made accessible to people with functional impairments to varying degrees. The requirements decided upon by the Swedish Press and Broadcasting Authority are applicable from 1 September 2021 and include Swedish broadcasters who broadcast programmes in Swedish. These requirements are divided into specific requirements and promotion requirements. As of 1 September 2021, the requirements will also apply to on-demand services.

Requirements for broadcasters

We decide on the requirements for broadcasters to make television broadcasts accessible. However, we do not make demands of public service broadcasters – their requirements are decided upon by the Government. The requirements apply to Swedish broadcasters that transmit programmes in Swedish on the terrestrial network, via satellite or by cable (cable TV, web TV and IPTV), as well as on-demand services. As a broadcaster, you are subject to either specific requirements or promotion requirements.

Summary of new requirements, 2021

From 1 September 2021, new accessibility requirements will apply to TV broadcasts and on-demand services. Here is a summary

  • The requirements cover linear TV services and on-demand services.
  • The decisions will apply from 1 September 2021 to 31 August 2023.
  • The requirements must be met during the following two periods:
  • 1 September 2021–31 August 2022 (period 1)
  • 1 September 2022–31 August 2023 (period 2).
  • After each period, the provider must report on how the requirements have been met and attach an action plan describing how the accessibility of the service is to be increased.
  • Commercials and other advertisements are not covered by the obligation and may not be taken into account when assessing whether a broadcaster has fulfilled its obligations.
  • Linear TV services and on-demand services aimed at a Swedish audience and with a viewing time share of one per cent or more are subject to specific requirements. The requirements will be set on the basis of quotas calculated as a proportion of the broadcasting time of a programme service in respect of linear TV services and on the basis of the number of programmes in the case of on-demand services.
  • Services with a viewing time share of less than one per cent are subject to a general requirement to promote the accessibility of linear broadcasts and on-demand services.
  • The promotion requirement also applies in certain cases when the broadcasts originate in Sweden but are directed to other countries within the EU and/or Norway.

Annual review

The Authority reviews  annually whether additional channels should be subject to the requirements, but also whether the level of requirements should be changed for channels to which the requirements already apply. Channels with promotion requirements may be given specific requirements instead, and vice versa.

Specific requirements

The specific requirements cover both terrestrial TV channels and certain on-demand services.

The following channels and play services are subject to specific accessibility requirements.

  • TV3
  • TV4
  • TV6
  • Sjuan
  • TV8
  • TV10
  • TV12
  • TV4 Play
  • Viaplay
  • HBO Max (Norden)

Summary of specific requirements

Technology Coverage, as a percentage* How and where the requirements are to be met
Subtitling of prerecorded programmes 100 This requirement must be met on all platforms where the TV service is distributed.
Subtitling of live programmes 60 This requirement must be met on all platforms where the TV service is distributed.
Sign language interpretation

TV4 AB – 10

NENT – 4 (period 1)

NENT – 6 (period 2)

Interpreting must take place on one of the platforms on which the TV service is distributed or on demand while the programme is being broadcast linearly.
Audio description 10 The description must be provided on one of the platforms on which the TV service is distributed or on demand/on a separate audio track while the programme is being broadcast linearly.
Spoken text

TV4 AB – 15 (period 1)

TV4 AB – 20 (period 2)

NENT – Must work to establish such technology.

This requirement must be met on all platforms where the TV service is distributed.

The requirement can also be met by providing spoken text as a separate audio track while the programme is being broadcast linearly.

*The proportion of broadcasting time for programmes in Swedish is calculated for subtitling and interpreting/audio descriptions. The proportion of broadcasting time for programmes in other languages with Swedish translation subtitles is calculated for spoken text.

Nordic Entertainment Group (NENT) and TV4 AB are free to decide for themselves whether the interpretation/audio description requirements are to be fulfilled in the linear TV service or by providing the interpretation/audio description in the on-demand TV service TV4 Play or Viaplay while the programme is being broadcast linearly. Broadcasters can also meet the requirement for audio descriptions by providing the description as an audio track on a separate device – such as a mobile phone or tablet – while the programme is being broadcast linearly.

NENT and TV4 AB are able to decide the approximate distribution of the accessibility between the different programme services with specific requirements and may submit a joint description of the content made available in the various services. They must take into account the needs of the target audiences when deciding which programmes to make accessible, and when distributing the programmes made accessible on each platform and linear TV service.

Live sports broadcasts (matches and competitions) or rerunss of such sports are not subject to the quantitative requirements if there are no technical or practical conditions for making these broadcasts accessible. In such cases, the provider must endeavour to make the broadcasts accessible. In the annual report, the provider must explain why this was not practically or technically possible and explain how the provider is working to make the broadcasts accessible. 

Specific requirements for TV4 Play and Viaplay

Subtitling

All programmes in Swedish published on the on-demand TV service during the decision period must be subtitled. For Viaplay there is an exception when it comes to programmes aimed at children under six years of age. The requirement also does not apply to live online broadcasts or live sports broadcasts which are then made available on the on-demand service if they cannot be made accessible for technical or practical reasons.

Audio descriptions and sign language interpretation

TV4 AB and NENT are free to decide for themselves whether the interpretation/audio description requirements are to be fulfilled in the linear TV service or by providing the interpretation/audio description on TV4 Play or Viaplay while the programme is being broadcast linearly.

If a programme has been interpreted/provided with an audio description in a linear TV service of this kind, it must also be made accessible in the same way in TV4 Play if the programme is also provided there. The requirement for audio descriptions may be met by providing the service as an audio track on a separate device such as a mobile phone or tablet.

Spoken text

NENT and TV4 AB must work to establish the technology for spoken text during the decision period. This technology may also be provided as an audio track on a separate device such as a mobile phone or tablet.

Specific requirements for the HBO Max on-demand service

Subtitling

All programmes in Swedish published on the HBO Max on-demand TV service during the decision period must be subtitled. For HBO Max there is an exception when it comes to programmes aimed at children under six years of age. The requirement also does not apply to live online broadcasts or live sports broadcasts which are then made available on the on-demand service if they cannot be made accessible for technical or practical reasons.

Audio descriptions and sign language interpretation

The supply of programmes with audio descriptions or sign language interpretation must increase annually during the decision period, based on what was made accessible on HBO Max in the 2020 calendar year, unless there are special reasons for not doing so. If no programmes had audio descriptions or sign language interpretation in the 2020 calendar year, at least some programmes must be made accessible using the relevant technology in period 1. The number of programmes with audio descriptions or sign language interpretation must then increase in period 2. The requirement for audio descriptions may be met by providing the service as an audio track on a separate device such as a mobile phone or tablet.

Spoken text

HBO Nordic AB must work to establish the technology for spoken text on HBO Max during the decision period. This technology may also be provided as an audio track on a separate device such as a mobile phone or tablet.

Cost limit for services with specific requirements

The obligation to make programmes accessible need not be fulfilled to the extent that the costs of making them accessible exceed one per cent of the net turnover of the service in question. Net turnover must be calculated for the 2021 calendar year for period 1, and for the 2022 calendar year for period 2.

Requirements to promote accessibility

Broadcasters whose channels are subject to the lower level of requirements have an obligation to promote the accessibility of their television broadcasts in Swedish for people with functional impairment. Promotion must take place by means of subtitling, sign language interpreting, audio descriptions, spoken text (also applies to programmes in a language other than Swedish with Swedish translation subtitles) or similar techniques.

Promotion requirements may also apply to broadcasts to other countries
The promotion requirement applies to Swedish broadcasters and on-demand services that broadcast programmes in Swedish. However, the promotion requirement may also apply to broadcasts directed to other EU countries, Iceland and Norway. This requirement applies if both of the following criteria are met:

  • The transmitting provider is established in Sweden or uses Swedish satellite capacity and is therefore subject to Swedish law.
  • The content is in an official language of the country to which the broadcast is addressed.

Promotion does not mean that all programmes must be made accessible, but it is up to the broadcasters themselves to decide on the extent and which of the accessibility technologies are to be used. At least some programmes must be made accessible during the year. This could mean, for example, that some programmes in Swedish are broadcast with subtitles every year.

Commercials and other advertisements are not covered by the obligation and may not be taken into account when assessing whether a broadcaster has fulfilled its obligations.

Requirements to promote accessibility for linear broadcasts and video-on-demand

Where technically feasible, media service providers must promote the accessibility of their programmes in Swedish by means of subtitling, sign language interpretation and/or audio descriptions. The promotion requirement can also be met by offering spoken text technology for programmes in other languages with Swedish translation subtitles. Audio descriptions and spoken text may be offered by providing the description as an audio track on a separate device – such as a mobile phone or tablet – while the TV programme is being broadcast linearly.

Providers are free to decide which of the techniques to use, but at least some programmes must be made accessible using one of the techniques during period 1. The number of programmes must then increase in period 2. If the linear programme service is distributed on several platforms, the provider may decide on which platform(s) the programmes are to be made accessible.

Requirements for public service broadcasters

SVT and UR must make programmes accessible by means of subtitling, sign language interpreting, audio descriptions and spoken text. The scope of the requirements is decided by the Government.

Communications of public importance

As of 1 December 2020, a new provision is applicable in the Radio and Television Act which requires any media service provider who broadcasts communications of public interest on television at the request of a public Authority to formulate the communications as soon as possible so that they are accessible to people with functional impairment. This means that the communication must be made accessible by means of subtitling, sign language interpreting, audio descriptions, spoken text or similar techniques. This obligation applies to SVT and also to other Swedish broadcasters with licences to broadcast television in the terrestrial network, which are required to broadcast what are known as public service announcements (PSAs) in their broadcasting licences. There is no corresponding obligation to ensure accessibility for public service announcements broadcast on radio.