WHAT'S IN THE FUTURE FOR BLIND TV FANS?
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WHAT'S IN THE FUTURE FOR BLIND TV FANS?

Peter Luff MP has sat down to watch Dr Who* with partially sighted ‘Aunt Megan’ at a Parliamentary reception. The event was calling for more audio description for the 3,000 blind and partially sighted people.
Audio Description (AD) is an additional commentary that describes the body language, expressions and movements that someone with sight loss cannot see. Currently the Communications Act (2003) only requires 10 per cent of television programmes to be audio described. This limits blind and partially sighted people’s access, understanding and enjoyment of television. The Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) organised the event and is calling for an increase in the amount of AD from 10 to 20 per cent of programming.

Peter commented,

"Watching Dr Who with Aunt Megan, I realised how difficult it is for her to follow it without audio description – who is the Dr pointing the gun at and who did he shoot? Blind and partially sighted people are at risk of being left behind; unable to join in the conversations we have every day about TV shows. As digital switchover gathers pace, I’ll be calling on the Government to make sure blind and partially sighted people aren’t left in the past and can share in the future of this significant part of our national culture - television."

Following a consultation, TV regulator Ofcom will shortly publish recommendations on the future of AD. Hundreds of blind and partially sighted people and their family members responded to the consultation calling on Ofcom to recommend 20 per cent audio description on all channels.

Steve Winyard, Head of Campaigns at RNIB added,

"A decision which does not increase audio description will leave blind and partially sighted people locked out of the future of TV. We urge Ofcom to listen to the many blind and partially sighted people who responded to their consultation and recommend an increase to 20 per cent audio description on all TV channels.“

If more TV was audio described it could reduce some of the isolation that blind and partially sighted people face everyday. When Peter met ‘Aunt Megan’ at the reception, she explained that TV is her gateway into the outside world, a source of information and a companion. Without AD she couldn’t enjoy talking to her grandson about his favourite series - Dr Who, while shows like David Attenborough’s ‘Life’ would be barred to her.

AD is available on digital TV, on DVD movies, in cinemas, galleries and museums as well as major sporting venues and exhibition centres.

Ends

The photograph shows Peter Luff MP and RNIB Head of Campaigns Steve Winyard, with a reproduction of the first mass-produced TV, built in 1929 and invented by Logie Baird.

*Dr Who is routinely audio described on the BBC and BBC iPlayer. At the event a clip was shown, courtesy of the BBC, both with and without audio description to illustrate the difference is makes to the enjoyment and understanding of the programme.


Notes to Editor

 Currently audio description targets are fixed at 10 per cent. The Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport has the power under the Communications Act 2003 to increase these targets.
 Ofcom is the communications regulator (including TV, radio and telecoms). It operates under the Communications Act 2003 to further the interests of citizens and of consumers.
• Ofcom consulted on the future of audio description and the recommendations are expected to be published imminently.
• Not all programmes would benefit from audio description. News and music channels are exempt as are channels with less than a 0.05 per cent audience share. Whether AD is of benefit to people with sight loss depends on the format of the programme i.e. how much activity occurs without any supporting speech or sound.


Aunt Megan is played by an actress who is partially sighted and a regular user of AD. The experience she describes to MPs is based on her own and the reports of other blind and partially sighted people.

ENDS


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