In a Christmas gift for the blind & vision-impaired community, the Government will provide ABC and SBS $2 million each to introduce audio description services from July.
This is long overdue for the community, which has campaigned long and hard for descriptors so they can more-fully enjoy TV programmes. Trials were undertaken back in 2012 and 2016.
“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,” Communications Minister Paul Fletcher said.
“As a result of this funding, the national broadcasters are expected to begin offering audio description services to audiences by 1 July 2020.”
It isn’t yet clear how much content will be provided with audio descriptions.
An ABC spokesperson told TV Tonight, “We are in the very early stages of planning with the aim of making the most effective use of the available funds to achieve the best outcome for audiences who use audio description.”
An SBS spokesperson said, “SBS welcomes funding to support the introduction of audio description as a way of improving the accessibility of our content. We are assessing how we will deliver the service, considering the requirements involved and needs of audiences.”
Australian Greens Disability Rights spokesperson Senator Jordon Steele-John said more than 450,000 blind or vision-impaired Australians will be affected by the news.
“Whilst this is a huge win for our blind and vision-impaired communities, it is disappointing to see that this government has not committed to requiring commercial free-to-air television stations to provide audio description as well,” he said.
“The commercial stations – Channel’s Seven, Nine, 10 and SKY – are now on notice. The technology is readily available and cheap, and the community expects them to follow suit and make sure their content is accessible to blind and visually-impaired Australians!
“The Greens will continue to campaign alongside the community to make sure that free-to-air TV in Australia is accessible and inclusive for everyone.”
In early 2015 Vision Australia lodged complaints with the Australian Human Rights Commission against Seven, Nine, 10, SBS and Foxtel over a lack of audio descriptors.
The UK, US, Ireland, Germany, Spain and New Zealand already provide audio description on Free to Air or subscription television.