Audio description to appear on Australian free-to-air TV

16 December 2019

Vision Australia welcomes the news that audio description will be available on ABC and SBS TV programs by July 2020.

The Federal Government announced these stations will each receive $2 million to introduce audio description services.

Audio description is a verbal commentary that complements the soundtrack of a television program so people who are blind or have low vision can better experience them. It is available for programs on some streaming services, including select titles on Netflix and Stan.

“Australia is the only English speaking nation in the OECD not to offer audio description on free-to-air television. We believe that it is long overdue for our national broadcasters to introduce audio description for their audiences,” Minister for Communications, Cyber Safety and the Arts, the Hon Paul Fletcher MP, said.

“As a result of this funding, the national broadcasters are expected to begin offering audio description services to audiences by 1 July 2020,” Minister Fletcher said.

Audio description has previously been trialled twice by the ABC, on both broadcast television and via its streaming service iView.

While the government has not mandated how the networks must use the funding to deliver audio description, Vision Australia is keen to work with government and broadcasters to ensure the rollout is successful and benefits as many people who are blind or have low vision as possible.

“Vision Australia has been at the forefront of the campaign to have audio description introduced to Australian free to air TV, and we’re pleased the government has listened to us, along with the wider blind and low vision community,” Chris Edwards, Vision Australia Manager Government Relations and Advocacy said.

“Audio description will allow people like me to enjoy TV independently just like my sighted friends and family. Television programs promote conversations and this outcome means I can join in discussions that occur in workplaces and other social settings. That’s a big part of me feeling more socially included,” Chris said.

“For decades, we’ve been advocating to see a minimum of 14 hours per week of audio described content on all free-to-air and pay TV stations, and this outcome is a step in the right direction.  We look forward to working with the networks and government to understand how they plan to introduce audio description.”

Though the funding announcement for the ABC and SBS is positive, Chris said campaigning for audio description on commercial networks will continue.