Media Release by Senator the Hon Jan McLucas

Government funded audio description trial to start in August 2012

Joint Media Release with:

  • Senator the Hon Stephen Conroy, Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, Deputy Leader of the Government in the Senate, Minister Assisting the Prime Minister on Digital Productivity

The Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, Senator Stephen Conroy, and Parliamentary Secretary for Disabilities and Carers, Senator Jan McLucas, today announced that a trial will begin next month that is expected to provide a richer television experience for Australians with a visual impairment.

The audio description trial will:

  • Take place on ABC 1 and start on 5 August;
  • Run for 13 weeks between 5pm and midnight;
  • Use technology to explain to people with vision impairments what is happening during the program, while they also listen to the soundtrack;
  • Provide a greater understanding of the technical and consumer issues associated with providing audio description services; and
  • Test what is required to commission, transmit, and distribute these services.

“This audio description trial is an Australian first. It is being funded by the Gillard Government and will cover drama, documentaries and other content broadcast on ABC1,” Senator Conroy said.

“I encourage anyone interested in taking part in the trial to check their televisions or set top boxes against those listed in the user guides on my department’s website. The user guides identify which digital televisions and set-top boxes can receive audio described programs and how this function can be activated.”

Mark Scott, Managing Director of the ABC, said, “The ABC has worked collaboratively with the Government, service providers and other stakeholders to deliver this trial and looks forward to presenting the findings to the Minister.”

The ABC will provide a report to the Government in late 2012. The Government will consider the outcomes of the trial carefully, and these will inform consideration of future requirements for audio description.

Senator McLucas said the Gillard Government is working hard to break down barriers that people with disabilities may face in the community.

“Watching TV is something many of us don’t think twice about, but the fact is there are many Australians who haven’t been able to enjoy this popular past time or take advantage of this source of news and information,” said Senator McLucas.

“The trial is another step the Government is taking to improve access to television for people with a disability.”

For people with hearing impairments, the Government recently passed legislation that introduces new and boosts existing requirements for captioning on commercial, national and subscription television. The legislation also ensures better access to televised emergency warnings.

“We are also delivering a range of community participation initiatives including improving access to cinemas for people who are deaf, blind, or visually or hearing impaired, and providing playback devices in public libraries to improve access to print material,” Senator McLucas said.

People who have a visual or hearing impairment and want more information about the audio description trial or other Government initiatives can contact the Department using the following services: TTY users phone 133 677 then ask for 02 6271 1000; Speak and Listen (speech-to-speech relay) users phone 1300 555 727 then ask for 02 6271 1000; Internet relay users connect to and then ask for 02 6271 1000.