The Digital Production Partnership (DPP) has agreed a common standard for access services files.

It builds on the EBU’s subtitle format (EBU-TT) and has been created to help UK broadcasters with the delivery of subtitles and audio description files.

The DPP’s XML format contains additional metadata fields for prepared subtitles and captured live subtitles as well as the scripts used during the production of audio description tracks.

In a statement, the DPP said the new format would allow UK broadcasters and access service providers to move away from legacy equipment towards an “open, future-facing format”.

“By agreeing this format before making the transition, the DPP is able to lay the groundwork for a common UK interchange format that will benefit all businesses that need to exchange these documents,” the cross-broadcaster group said.

No date has been set for the standards to be applied and UK broadcasters are expected to implement the standards as they refresh their access services equipment.

The DPP format separates the text and timings from information such as where the information should appear on screen, the font style, size and colour, and separate metadata including whether a subtitle is describing dialogue, music or sounds effects.

DPP technical standards lead and Channel 4 chief technology officer Broadcast and Distribution Kevin Burrows said: “This new subtitle standard, encompassing the existing EBU TT specification, will allow for the display of subtitles on current and future consumer platforms by the UK broadcasters.

“This will benefit viewers by enabling a consistent viewer experience across their services.”

Subtitle documents that are produced to the DPP spec will comply with the EBU-TT guidelines.

The EBU is in the process of finalising the draft guidance for converting from the legacy STL format to EBU-TT, which was produced in July 2012.

DPP board member and technology controller BBC Television North and Nations Alan Whiston added: “This demonstrates the continued collaboration between broadcasters and standards bodies through the forum of the DPP.

“This is an essential step for enhancing the experience across platforms and services for the benefit of the audience.”