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Audio Description MP briefing
Summary

Ofcom is currently consulting on whether the amount of audio description
(AD) on TV...
CHANNE        AD TARGET         Percentage broadcast in the first
L               %                  quarter of 2009
BBC 1...
Ofcom Access Services Review
In September 2009 Ofcom launched the 2009 Access Services Review.
The review closes on 12 Nov...
Which types of programmes should be audio described?
RNIB believes that programmes where AD provides the most benefit
shou...
Does IPTV (internet television) such as BBC iPlayer and the ITV
player have AD?
IPTV is not covered by the Communications ...
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Ofcom consultation on audio description (until 12 November 09 ...

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Ofcom consultation on audio description (until 12 November 09 ...

  1. 1. Audio Description MP briefing Summary Ofcom is currently consulting on whether the amount of audio description (AD) on TV should be increased. Legislation requires that every digital TV channel broadcasts 10 per cent of their programmes with AD. We think the minimum amount of AD should be increased to 20 per cent (Option 2 in Ofcom's consultation). What is Audio Description? Audio Description (AD) is like a narrator telling a story, an additional commentary that describes body language, expressions and movements that someone with sight loss would not see, making the story clear through sound. AD is available on digital TV, on DVDs, in cinemas, galleries and museums as well as major sporting venues and exhibition centres. Currently the Communications Act (2003) only requires 10 per cent of television programmes to be audio described, thus limiting access, understanding and enjoyment of television for people with sight loss. Although the BBC is not governed by the Communications Act requirement, it has implemented this requirement on its channels as well. In September 2009 Ofcom launched the 2009 Access Services Review to consult on future levels of audio description. How much Audio description is currently available? At present many broadcasters are currently exceeding their 10 per cent requirement. AD provision increased from 14.8 per cent in late 2008 to 17.5 per cent in early 2009. This can be attributed to the voluntary increase to 20 per cent that Sky implemented in March 2009 for its own channels.
  2. 2. CHANNE AD TARGET Percentage broadcast in the first L % quarter of 2009 BBC 1 10 16.1 BBC 2 10 12.3 BBC 3 10 26.8 BBC 4 10 17.7 ITV 1 10 13.6 CHANNEL 5 10 15 S4C 10 14.6 What are we calling for? RNIB is calling on the Secretary of State to use his powers to increase audio description to 20 per cent of all programmes. What research has been conducted? In early 2008, 16 broadcasters together with Ofcom and RNIB delivered an extensive campaign to increase awareness of audio description. In June 2008 Ofcom published research which measured awareness levels. Awareness of AD before and after the awareness raising campaign 2008 (before) 2008 (after) General public 37 60 per cent Visually impaired 43 72 per cent Severe + profound sight loss 61 82 per cent Moderate sight loss 40 66 per cent Mild sight loss 26 66 per cent  The Ofcom research found "increasing the amount of audio described programming would be the main way of increasing usage among the visually impaired community".  40 per cent of people with severe/profound visual impairment report using AD, 11 per cent with moderate visual impairment and 2 per cent with mild visual impairment  Nearly all users of AD feel that using the service improves their understanding and enjoyment of TV programmes. Ofcom does not have the power to increase the targets as they form part of the Communications Act 2003 but will conclude the review by making a recommendation. However the decision to increase the targets needs to be made by the Secretary of State. 2
  3. 3. Ofcom Access Services Review In September 2009 Ofcom launched the 2009 Access Services Review. The review closes on 12 November 2009 and we expect it to report early 2010. The review sets out three options for audio description: 1. No change (ie AD targets remain at 10 per cent) 2. An increase in AD targets to 20 per cent for all TV channels (with annual increments of two per cent) 3. An increase in AD targets to 20 per cent on the 10 PSB channels only (BBC 1,2,3,4, CBBC, CBeebies, ITV1, C4, Five and S4C) RNIB supports Option 2 which will provide blind and partially sighted people of all ages and backgrounds with as equal access to the benefits of television programming as possible. How will broadcasters achieve the 20 per cent target? Broadcasters, many of who have already reached 10 per cent, will be expected to increase their AD output by two per cent each year until they reach 20 per cent. Broadcasters can choose which programmes they audio describe. Ofcom uses audience share and turnover to decide which channels must provide AD. What has the Government said? In February 2009 the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport stated that he “would like to see progress on this issue by the end of the year”. In March 2009 at an adjournment debate Barbara Follet, Minister for Culture, said that the Government would wait for evidence from Ofcom’s Access Services review. RNIB believes that the Secretary of State should now make a clear political commitment after the Access Services Review ends to swiftly implement a phased increase in targets to reach 20 per cent. How much does Audio Description cost to broadcasters? Most broadcasters have contracts with specialist audio description companies whilst some produce audio description in-house. In September 2009 Ofcom estimated that AD cost £443 per hour. This is a small percentage of the overall costs and Ofcom notes "costs have tended to decline in recent years, and may continue to do so". 3
  4. 4. Which types of programmes should be audio described? RNIB believes that programmes where AD provides the most benefit should be audio described. Blind and partially sighted people, just like the wider sighted audience, watch a wide range of programming. Increasing the availability of audio description to 20 per cent would provide that wider range of programmes with audio description. Ofcom does not require the provision of audio description on music and news programmes on grounds of technical difficulty. These programme also include little space within the dialogue/sound track to provide audio description, and less need.1 Do your constituents have to pay to receive AD? There isn't a charge for AD however you do need a digital TV. At present 89 per cent of the population have digital TV. This will increase as each region of the UK switches to digital TV and is why we believe now is the right time to increase the amount of AD. What equipment do you need to receive AD? Digital Satellite (Freesat and Sky) and Digital Cable (Virgin Media) viewers have AD delivered with their service. It needs to be switched on using the remote control handset and some on-screen visual menus. However not all Digital Terrestrial (Freeview) equipment can receive the AD signal but the amount is increasing. AD options available for Freeview currently are: • Many IDTVs (a television that has a built in Freeview box) • a Freeview set-top box from RNIB (TVonics brand) • a limited amount of commercial set top boxes Getting hold of AD ready equipment can be challenging for your blind and partially sighted constituents, as shop assistants may not be aware of AD and manufacturers do not always provide this information about their product. Your constituents can receive advice from our helpline 0303 123 9999 and on our website. How can your Constituents get help to access Audio Description? The government's Digital Switchover Help Scheme provides and installs equipment that receives audio description for a charge. Please contact us for more information. 1 http://www2.ofcom.org.uk/tv/ifi/codes/ctas/ 4
  5. 5. Does IPTV (internet television) such as BBC iPlayer and the ITV player have AD? IPTV is not covered by the Communications Act 2003 so it does not have to be audio described. However in August 2009 we welcomed the BBC's decision to provide audio description on the BBC iPlayer. RNIB is encouraging other broadcasters, including ITV, Channel 4 and Sky, and digital TV platforms, including BT Vision and Canvas, to make audio description of IPTV the norm. Important! Is Freeview available in your Constituency? Some areas of the UK still can't access Freeview at present and between five and ten per cent of aerials need upgrading in order to receive the signal. The Digital UK website has a postcode checker which will tell you whether Freeview is already available in your area. It can be found at: www.digitaluk.co.uk For further information please contact: John Dickinson-Lilley - Parliamentary Officer T: 020 7391 3267 E: john.dickinson-lilley@rnib.org.uk 5

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