New report on the trial of A.D. on ABC iview

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Tuesday, 7 March 2017 16:17pm

Media Access Australia was one of seven leading advocacy organisations that have just tabled a report, including consumer feedback, perspectives and analysis, of the Government-funded trial of Audio Description (AD) on the ABC's iview service, from April 2015 to July 2016.

Image of Audio Description

Image of Audio Description

The new report was submitted in late February 2017 to Senator Mitch Fifield, Minister for Communications, and also provided to Sophie Kowald (Advisor to the Shadow minister for Communications) and Senator Rachel Siewert (The Greens). It was collaboratively prepared by the Australian Communications Consumer Action Network, Blind Citizens Australia, Blind Citizens NSW, Media Access Australia, the Royal Society for the Blind, VisAbility, and Vision Australia.

The report makes it clear that the blindness and low vision sector would welcome a continuation of AD on iview as a step in the direction of equality of access to television. However, by itself such a step would represent a systemic failure to provide people who are blind or have low vision with basic access to television now, given that iview is out of reach for many people in the blindness and low vision community.

As Media Access Australia reported at the time, the most recent ABC iview trial began 14 April 2015 and ran for 15 months. People who are blind or have low vision and who were able to participate in the most recent iview trial said that the:

  • Experience was generally positive and the benefits of audio description immense
  • Quality of the audio description was very good
  • Mix of program content was generally satisfactory.

However, 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.

Media Access Australia believes that not only is it critical that we continue to have AD on iview but that the national broadcaster, and indeed all commercial FTA channels, need to provide a service that people who are blind or vision impaired can actually access.

“At the moment, people who are blind or vision impaired are excluded and this is just not acceptable,” says CEO Dr Manisha Amin.

“It’s terrible that Australia is so far behind other first-world countries like the USA and UK where audio description is a given,” adds Dr Amin. “This is not a cost or technology issue, it’s a human rights issue. Audio description should not be a privilege, but a basic human right.”

The authors of the new report into the iview AD trial, call on the Australian Government to show leadership in the audio description space, and to move without further delay to mandate minimum levels of AD on all free-to-air television networks in Australia. The new report also proposes that the Australian Government ensure the ABC provides a permanent audio service on iview.

The Senate Environment and Communications Committee met on 28 February and the committee has fixed Friday 28 April 2017 as the date for the return of answers to questions taken on notice, in regards to the cost of instigating audio description. Media Access Australia will report on responses, developments and next steps resulting from this, as soon as they develop.


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