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Overview of AD

Audio description provides access to television for people who are blind and vision impaired. It is widely available on broadcast TV around the world, and Australians are calling for the service to be returned to ABC1 following its 2012 trial.

Overview of 2012 campaign

In August 2012, the ABC commenced a 13-week technical trial of audio description (AD) on ABC1 that aimed to assess the technical challenges of delivering AD in Australia. This was the first time that AD was made available on television for over 600,000 Australians who are blind, vision impaired or can benefit from the service.

During the trial, thousands of people sent emails, letters and postcards to the then Communications Minister, Senator Stephen Conroy, and the ABC’s Managing Director Mark Scott, urging them to commit to an ongoing audio description service.

In October 2013, the ABC’s technical report on the trial was finally released to the public. The previous government had stated that after this report was released, discussions would be held with the ABC, consumer representative groups and other stakeholders about the introduction of a regular service. We are calling on the new government to stand by this commitment.

Current status and news

In July 2013, Blind Citizens Australia (BCA) lodged 21 disability discrimination complaints against the Federal Government and the ABC for not providing an audio description service. BCA commenced conciliation discussions with the ABC in 2014. The discussions are being brokered by the Australian Human Rights Commission, and are ongoing.

Meanwhile, the Minister for Comminications, Malcolm Turnbull, has written to blind organisations and Media Access Australia to say that “commencing from April 2015, the ABC has agreed to commence a new AD trial on its online iview service.

“The trial is expected to run for 15 months, with the AD service on iview initially being made available on the iPhone Operating System (iOS) platform. The trial will then expand to progressively allow access through other platforms including Android, via personal computers and Hybrid Broadcast Broadband TV (HbbTV) by August 2015.

“It is expected that the trial will provide a minimum of 14 hours of audio-described content per week and feature a wide range of content. In determining the appropriate mix of content for AD on iview and how to best communicate the AD trial to its intended beneficiaries, I have asked the ABC to consult with organisations such as Australian Communications Consumer Action Network (ACCAN), Vision Australia, Blind Citizens Australia and Media Access Australia.

“An early indicative breakdown of the genre and amount of hours per week suggests that the trial may involve: drama/entertainment 6 hours/week, factual/documentaries/current affairs 5 hours/week and children's programming 3 hours/week.

“AD on iview has not previously been tested so it can be expected that there may be technical issues during the trial. Given this situation, the ABC has promised to provide regular updates as the trial progresses, with a view to quickly addressing unforeseen difficulties.

“The results of this time-limited trial will add to the Government's understanding of the delivery options available for AD in Australia. The Government expects to receive a report on the outcomes of the trial from the ABC after it concludes in July 2016. The report would provide a basis for further engagement with the ABC.”

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