A public consultation process has been launched by the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI) on proposed changes to rules governing the levels of subtitling, sign language and audio description.

The access rules have been in place since 2005 and are reviewed every two years. 

BAI Chairman Bob Collins said an initial review of the current rules in recent months suggested they did not need significant change.

He said broadcasters had been strongly compliant as regards the amount of access services they had made available over the past two years but, he said, more work needed to be done in relation to the quality of access service provision. 

Revised draft rules, published today, propose that by 2018 between 87% and 92% of programming on RTÉ 1 television will be subtitled.

TV3 will be required to reach a subtitling target of between 51% and 55%.

Proposed changes to audio description will only affect RTÉ 1 and 2.

Audio description is commentary giving verbal descriptions of what is happening on the television screen. 

This will be implemented for the first time in Ireland on Eastenders on RTÉ later this year after a internal trial run on a number of Fair City episodes. 

The revised rules also include the provision of Irish sign language on RTÉ Junior.

The BAI acknowledged that this process would require a significant investment in equipment and software and therefore the target reflected this.

The consultation document can be accessed on www.baifuture.ie.