Audio Description on Television

A report has been prepared collaboratively by Vision Australia, Blind Citizens Australia (BCA), Blind Citizens NSW (BCNSW), Royal Society for the Blind (RSB), VisAbility, Media Access Australia, and the Australian Communications Consumer Action Network (ACCAN). This report provides consumer feedback, perspectives and analysis of the Government-funded trial of audio description on the ABC's iview service. The trial commenced in April 2015 and concluded in July 2016.

Prompted and unprompted feedback from people who are blind or have low vision during and after the trial, has allowed us to draw a number of conclusions.

People who are blind or have low vision and who were able to participate in the trial said that:

  • the experience was generally positive and the benefits of audio description immense;
  • The quality of the audio description was very good;
  • The mix of program content was generally satisfactory.

Irrespective of this feedback, many people were unable to participate in the trial for various reasons, including:

  • Lack of access to smartphone or internet technology;
  • Low bandwidth and/or slow data speeds;
  • Prohibitive data download costs.

We received feedback from people who had participated in the 2012 trial of audio description on the ABC's free-to-air channel ABC1, and who also participated in the iview trial. There was a near-unanimous consensus that although the iview experience was valuable and the audio description of a high quality, the overall experience of watching audio-described programs on iview was significantly inferior to watching them on free-to-air television. A strong view was expressed that even if a permanent audio description service were to be provided on iview, it must be in addition to, and not a substitute for, a permanent audio description on free-to-air television.

Recommendations

We recommend that:

  1. The Australian Government move without further delay to mandate minimum targets for audio description on all free-to-air television networks in Australia;
  2. the Australian Government ensure that the ABC provides a permanent audio service on iview.

To access a copy of the report contact Bruce Maguire.  

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