Trial of audio description for television on ABC TV

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Hi All

I was excited to see the recent announcement by Senator Conroy about the trial of audio description on ABC TV. This is something BCA, and their partners, have been advocating for over the past few years.

Please see below the BCA media release congratulating the Australian Government.

I have also placed below the BCA media release the announcement made by Senator Conroy’s office.

Not all the technical details have been worked out yet so please stay tuned for more details. Also the trial is only for a short period and not on all programs. We are yet to find out which programs will be involved and how we will be told which programs to listen to.

From information I have received the type of audio description which the ABC will be using is called receiver-mixed, which means that when you press a button on a set top box or TV which has receiver-mixed capability, a separate sound channel containing only the audio description will be superimposed over the regular TV audio. When audio description is not being broadcast, you will just hear the regular TV audio.

Please let me know what you think of this announcement and whether you plan to make use of the service.

Follow Dale Reardon on Twitter



22 February 2012

Government and ABC deliver accessible television for Australia blind

Blind Citizens Australia today congratulated the Federal Government on their public announcement of a 13 week trial of audio description on
ABC1 commencing mid 2012, with 14 hours of audio described content to be aired each week.

Audio description is a way to describe the visual elements seen on screen in a clear and private manner. It gives a person who is blind or vision impaired a true sense of what is happening on-screen with a description of scenery, costumes, facial expression and body language which is spoken between natural pauses in dialogue.

“This is a major step forward for people who are blind or vision impaired”, said Mrs Cheryl Pascual, President of Blind Citizens Australia, the peak national consumer body of and for people who are blind or vision impaired.

“People who are blind or vision impaired have waited a long time to be included and have been frustrated that audio description on commercial television has been beyond our reach. A trial on ABC1 highlights a strong commitment to overcome some of the barriers experienced by people who are blind or vision impaired and sets the benchmark for other networks”, said Mrs Pascual.

ABC1 programs such as Australian Story often end with on-screen text outlining how the story has progressed since final recording. This information is inaccessible to people who are blind or vision impaired.

In 2010, the Department of Broadband, Communications and Digital Economy released its ‘Access to Electronic Media for the Hearing and Vision Impaired’ report which recommended a trial of audio description on ABC1 in the second half of 2011. The recommendation specified 14 hours of audio described content per week in prime time viewing, subject to funding approval.

Blind Citizens Australia will continue to work with both the Federal Government and the ABC in the implementation of the trial.

“This is an exciting time ahead for our members. It means school kids who are blind will no longer feel left out when all everyone is talking about is what was on TV last night. It also means that people who have lost their sight later in life can continue to share the experience of watching a movie on TV with family and friends”, said Mrs Pascual.

“People think that this is simply about television but it’s more that that. It’s about our right to enjoy all parts of life just like everyone else”.


This media release is available in large print, audio, Braille and in electronic formats for access by people who are blind or vision impaired.

Media contact: Robyn Gaile, Executive Officer – Mobile: 0417 549 535

Blind Citizens Australia, Ross House, Level 3, 247-251 Flinders Lane, Melbourne


Text of Senator Conroy media release begins now

Media Release

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


Audio Description Trial on ABC in 2012

The Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, Senator Stephen Conroy, today announced a trial of audio description will be conducted on ABC television in 2012.

Audio description improves access to electronic media for people with a visual impairment.

“The ABC will deliver content and conduct a technical trial of closed audio description using receiver-mixed technology for the Australian Government,” Senator Conroy said.

“The trial will involve the broadcast of drama, documentary and other content with audio description on ABC1 for 14 hours per week during prime time over a 13 week period commencing in mid 2012.”

The trial is intended to generate a greater understanding of the technical and consumer issues associated with establishing and delivering audio description services.

It will encompass testing of the broadcast delivery path from capture (acquisition or commissioning) to transmission and distribution. The trial is also intended to raise awareness of audio description within the industry, government and other key stakeholders, and obtain information on user requirements.

Audio description is an additional verbal commentary that complements the underlying soundtrack of a program. It is a narration which explains what is happening visually during television programs, movies, DVDs or live performances.

Audio description explains scenes, settings, costumes, facial expressions and ‘sight gags’ during gaps in the dialogue. Currently in Australia there is no broadcast on television of audio description. The trial will assist in assessing the technical and other implications within Australia’s broadcasting context.

The ABC will provide a report to the government on the audio description trial in the second half of 2012.

“I am also pleased to announce a successful tenderer for a consultancy to conduct research and identify appropriate consumer equipment for decoding receiver-mixed audio description technology has been selected,”
Senator Conroy said.

“This consultancy will help people with a visual impairment participate in the trial by identifying digital televisions and set-top boxes capable of receiving audio description and the steps involved in activating this functionality.

” The trial will be accessible to any viewer of the ABC’s digital ABC1 service with an appropriate receiver. The consultancy will provide its final report in March, well ahead of the trial commencing mid-year.

“The Gillard Government has already taken a number of other actions in response to the recommendations of the Media Access Review report released in 2010 and is committed to further improving access to electronic media,” Senator Conroy said.

“In September I announced an Australian first with the commercial release of talking set-top boxes to help people who are vision impaired make the switch to digital-only television.”

The government worked closely with industry in the development of the talking set-top box technology in Australia and carried out a trial as part of the Household Assistance Scheme rollout in regional Victoria.

These boxes have receiver-mix capability and will allow viewers to participate in the audio description trial.


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About Dale Reardon

Dale Reardon is a blind PhD student living in Hobart Tasmania, Australia. He is undertaking his PhD in discrimination law focusing on enforcement of discrimination laws and the adequacy of remedies provided.
Apart from studying for his PhD in discrimination law he helps people moving to Tasmania. If you have queries regarding relocating to Tasmania then please get in touch.


  1. Dale
    Twitter: DaleReardon

    For further details about audio description and the upcoming trial check out this article on ABC Ramp Up:


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