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Audio description trial on ABC in 2012

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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.

For those who are deaf or have a hearing or speech impairment please contact the Department through the National Relay Service:

 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


 internet relay users connect to and then ask for 02 6271 1000.

Date: 22 February 2012 Contact: Suzie Brady 0408258457