Campaigning for Audio Description on Australian Television

Help us to bring television to life for over 350,000 Australians who are blind or vision impaired.

What is audio description and why should it be available on Australian television?

Audio description (AD) is a form of narration that provides access to film, television, live performances or other live events for people who are blind or vision impaired. Narration is provided between natural gaps in dialogue and communicates information about visual elements such as scenes, settings, actions, costumes and on-screen text.

In the absence of audio description on television, audience members are left to guess what is happening or are forced to rely on friends or family to access information about the events that are unfolding on-screen. This compromises the ability of people who are blind or vision impaired to fully participate in cultural and recreational life, and continues to impact upon the dignity and independence of this section of the community.

Want to see how audio description works? Check out an audio described clip from ‘The Hunger Games’ here.

A few key facts

  • In the context of television, audio description can be turned on or off as needed and therefore does not disrupt the experience of the sighted consumer in any way.
  • Audio description has been available on free to air television in all other English-speaking OECD countries for many years.
  • Iconic Australian programmes such as Neighbours and Home and Away are already audio described for overseas audiences, but are still not accessible to Australians who are blind or vision impaired.
  • Australians who are deaf or hearing impaired enjoy comparatively high levels of access. The Broadcasting Services Act now requires 100% of content that is broadcast between 6:00AM and midnight to be captioned.

What has BCA been doing to advocate for audio description on Australian television?

Representation on the Government’s Audio Description Working Group

Following the continued lobbying efforts of Blind Citizens Australia and a number of other blindness organisations, in April this year, Communications Minister Mitch Fifield announced the establishment of an audio description working group. The purpose of this working group is to bring together representatives from the broadcasting and streaming industries, audio description service providers and consumer representatives to explore options to increase the availability of audio description services in Australia. Our Policy and Advocacy Coordinator, Lauren Henley is BCA’s representative on the working group.

The working group will hand down its final report to government in December 2017. This report will make a number of recommendations regarding a future pathway for the introduction of audio description on Australian television.

If the efforts of the government’s Audio Description Working Group do not result in tangible change for Australians who are blind or vision impaired, we still have a number of other campaign strategies up our sleeve. For the time being though, we need to see where the working group takes us and reassess our options after the final report has been handed down in December.

Campaign work around the government’s broadcast reform agenda

We have also been heavily involved in lobbying efforts relating to the government’s broadcast reform agenda over the past few months. The government sought to make amendments to the Broadcasting Services Act to introduce a number of new measures to reduce red tape for broadcasters and provide additional funding for women’s’ sports programming.

The Broadcasting Services Act is the law that currently sets out requirements for captioning on Australian television to provide access to people who are deaf or hearing impaired. we therefore saw this as a unique opportunity to lobby for minimum targets for audio description to be introduced into the Act.

Our lobbying efforts around the Broadcast Amendment Bill allowed us to engage in a meaningful dialogue with members of the Senate about the importance of audio description on television. As a result, the Labor Party, the Australian Greens and the majority of the cross bench now support our proposal for broadcasters to be required to provide audio description for people who are blind or vision impaired. Importantly, on 13 September 2017, An amendment relating to audio description on television was put forward by Greens Senator Rachel Siewert during second reading speeches on the Broadcast Amendment Bill in the Senate. The amendment won a vote on the floor during the Committee stage of the debate and was supported by

  • Labor
  • The Greens
  • The Nick Xenophon Team
  • Senator Gichuhi
  • Senator Hinch
  • Senator Lambie

The amendment was opposed by

  • The Government (a.k.a the Liberal Party)
  • One Nation
  • Senator Bernardi
  • Senator Leyonhjelm

While we were not successful in having minimum requirements for audio description introduced on Australian television as part of the Broadcast Amendment Bill, these efforts have moved us one step closer to our final goal. We have now paved the way for a separate bill relating to audio description to be introduced into Parliament in the future by gaining broad support for this very important cause. The thing that made this campaign every success that it was though, was the grass roots advocacy of our community. The tireless dedication of our members helped us to clearly demonstrate consumer demand for audio description on Australian television. We thank everyone who took the time to phone or email a Senator to get their point across – we simply couldn’t have done it without you!

What can you do to help?

You can get behind our campaign for audio description on Australian television and add your support by doing the following things:

  1. Share the video #ADonTV with your social networks and tag your local senator in a message about audio description. Feel free to link back to this page or share the video directly from our YouTube channel.
  2. Call or email your local senator in the next few days and ask them to check out this page and tell them why you think they should support audio description as part of the Broadcast Amendment Bill.
  3. Donate to our campaign to help us spread the word and build on this advocacy for 350,000 Australians who are blind or vision impaired.

 

Support our campaign by donating today

Have more questions?

For more information about our campaign work around audio description on television, contact our Policy and Advocacy Coordinator, Lauren Henley. Lauren can be contacted by phone on (03) 9654 1400 or free call 1800 033 660. Alternatively, you can contact Lauren by email at lauren.henley@bca.org.au

List of Senators

Australian Capital Territory

Senator Katy Gallagher (Canberra 2601)
Party: Australian Labour Party
Phone: 02) 6230 0411
Email: senator.gallagher@aph.gov.au

Senator the Hon Zed Seselja (Gungahlin 2912)
Party: Liberal Party
Phone: (02) 6247 6444
Email: senator.seselja@aph.gov.au

New South Wales

Senator Brian Burston (Toronto 2283)
Party: Pauline Hanson One Nation
Phone: (02) 4959 1044
Email: senator.burston@aph.gov.au

Senator Sam Dastyari (Parramatta 2150)
Party: Australian Labour Party
Phone: (02) 9891 9139
Email: senator.dastyari@aph.gov.au

Senator the Hon Concetta Fierravanti-Wells (Wollongong 2500)
Party: Liberal Party
Phone: (02) 4226 1700
Email: senator.fierravanti-wells@aph.gov.au

Senator David Leyonhjelm (Drummoyne 2047)
Party: Liberal Democrats
Phone: (02) 9719 1078
Email: senator.leyonhjelm@aph.gov.au

Senator the Hon Doug Niven Cameron (Springwood 2777)
Party: Australian Labour Party
Phone: (02) 4751 4288
Email: senator.cameron@aph.gov.au

Senator Jenny McAllister (Drummoyne 2047)                                      Party: Australian Labour Party
Phone: (02) 9719 8100
Email: senator.mcallister @aph.gov.au

Senator the Hon Fiona Nash (Young 2594)
Party: The Nationals
Phone: (02) 6382 3400
Email: senator.nash@aph.gov.au

Senator Deborah O’Neill (Erina 2250)
Party: Australian Labour Party
Phone: (02) 4367 4565
Email: senator.oneill@aph.gov.au

Senator the Hon Marise Payne (Parramatta 2150)
Party: Liberal Party
Phone: (02) 9687 8755
Email: senator.payne@aph.gov.au

Senator Lee Rhiannon (Surry Hills 2010)
Party: Australian Greens
Phone: (02) 9211 9523
Email: senator.rhiannon@aph.gov.au

Senator the Hon Arthur Sinodinos AO (Sydney 2000)
Party: Liberal Party
Phone: (02) 8289 9450
Email: senator.sinodinos@aph.gov.au

Senator John Williams (Inverell 2360)
Party: The Nationals
Phone: (02) 6721 4500
Email: senator.williams@aph.gov.au

Northern Territory

Senator Malarndirri McCarthy (Darwin 0800)
Party: Australian Labour Party
Phone: (08) 8941 0003
Email: Senator.mcCarthy@aph.aph.au

Senator the Hon Nigel Scullion (Jingili 0810)
Party: Country Labour Party
Phone: (08) 8948 3555
Email: senator.scullion@aph.gov.au

Queensland

Senator the Hon George Brandis QC (Albion 4010)
Party: Liberal Party
Phone: (07) 3862 4044
Email: senator.brandis@aph.gov.au

Senator the Hon Matthew Canavan (Rockhampton 4700)
Party: The Nationals
Phone: (07) 4927 2003
Email: senator.canavan@aph.gov.au

Senator Anthony Chisholm (Brisbane 4000)
Party: Australian Labour Party
Phone: (07) 3229 4477
Email: senator.chisholm@aph.gov.au

Senator Pauline Hanson (Brisbane 4000)
Party: Pauline Hanson’s One Nation
Phone: (07) 3221 7644
Email: senator.hanson@aph.gov.au

Senator Christopher Ketter (Strathpine 4500)
Party: Australian Labour Party
Phone: (07) 3881 3710
Email: senator.ketter@aph.gov.au

Senator the Hon Ian Macdonald (Townsville 4810)
Party: Liberal Party
Phone: (07) 4771 3066
Email: senator.macdonald@aph.gov.au

Senator the Hon James McGrath (Nambour 4560)
Party: Liberal Party
Phone: (07) 5441 1800
Email: senator.mcgrath@aph.gov.au

Senator Claire Moore (Fortitude Valley 4006)
Party: Australian Labour Party
Phone: (07) 3252 7101
Email: senator.moore@aph.gov.au

Senator Barry O’Sullivan (Toowoomba 4350)
Party: The Nationals
Phone: (07) 4638 7555
Email: senator.osullivan@aph.gov.au

Senator Malcolm Roberts (Eagle Street 4000)
Party: Pauline Hanson One Nation
Phone: (07) 3221 9099
Email: senator.roberts@aph.gov.au

Senator Murray Watt (Upper Mt Gravatt 4122)
Party: Australian Labour Party
Phone: (07) 3422 1990
Email: senator.watt@aph.gov.au

South Australia

Senator Cory Bernardi (Kent Town 5067)
Party: Australian Conservatives
Phone: (08) 8362 8600
Email: senator.bernardi@aph.gov.au

Senator the Hon Simon Birmingham (Hilton 5033)
Party: Liberal Party
Phone: (08) 8354 1644
Email: senator.birmingham@aph.gov.au

Senator the Hon Don Farrell (Adelaide 5000)
Party: Australian Labour Party
Phone: (08) 8231 8400
Email: senator.farrell@aph.gov.au

Senator David Fawcett (Adelaide 5000)
Party: Liberal Party
Phone: (08) 8205 1040
Email: senator.fawcett@aph.gov.au

Senator Lucy Gichuhi (Adelaide 5000)
Party: Independent
Phone: (08) 8205 1050
Email: senator.gichuhi@aph.gov.au

Senator Stirling Griff (Adelaide 5000)
Party: Nick Xenophon Team
Phone: (08) 8212 1409
Email: senator.griff@aph.gov.au

Senator Sarah Hanson-Young (Adelaide 5000)
Party: Australian Greens
Phone: (08) 8227 0425
Email: senator.hanson-young@aph.gov.au

Senator Skye Kakoschke-Moore (Adelaide 5000)
Party: Nick Xenophon Team
Phone: (08) 8232 0220
Email: senator.kakoschke-moore@aph.gov.au

Senator Alex Gallacher (Prospect 5082)
Party: Australian Labour Party
Phone: (08) 8269 6022
Email: senator.gallacher@aph.gov.au

Senator Nick Xenophon (Adelaide 5000)
Party: Nick Xenophon Team
Phone: (08) 8232 1144
Email: senator.xenophon@aph.gov.au

Senator the Hon Anne Ruston (Renmark 5341)
Party: Liberal Party
Phone: (08) 8586 6600
Email: senator.ruston@aph.gov.au

Senator the Hon Penny Wong (Adelaide 5000)
Party: Australian Labour Party
Phone: (08) 8212 8272
Email: senator.wong@aph.gov.au

Tasmania

Senator The Hon Eric Abetz (Hobart 7000)
Party: Liberal Party
Phone: (03) 6224 3707
Email: senator.abetz@aph.gov.au

Senator Catryna           Bilyk (Kingston 7050)
Party: Australian Labour Party
Phone: (03) 6229 4444
Email: senator.bilyk@aph.gov.au

Senator Carol Brown (Hobart 7001)
Party: Australian Labour Party
Phone: (03) 6231 0099
Email: senator.brown@aph.gov.au

Senator David Bushby (Launceston 7250)
Party: Liberal Party
Phone: (03) 6331 8501
Email: senator.bushby@aph.gov.au

Senator Jonathon Duniam (Devonport 7310)
Party: Liberal Party
Phone: (03) 6424 5960
Email: senator.duniam@aph.gov.au

Senator Jacquie Lambie (Burnie 7320)
Party: Jacquie Lambie Network
Phone: (03) 6431 2233
Email: senator.lambie@aph.gov.au

Senator Nick McKim (Hobart 7000)
Party: Australian Greens
Phone: (03) 6224 8899
Email: senator.mckim@aph.gov.au

Senator the Hon Stephen Parry (Launceston 7250)
Party: Liberal Party
Phone: (03) 6334 1755
Email: senator.parry@aph.gov.au

Senator Helen Polley (Launceston 7250)
Party: Australian Labour Party
Phone: (03) 6331 2599
Email: senator.polley@aph.gov.au

Senator the Hon Lisa Singh (Hobart 7000)
Party: Australian Labour Party
Phone: (03) 6223 1135
Email: senator.singh@aph.gov.au

Senator Anne Urquhart (Devonport 7310)
Party: Australian Labour Party
Phone: (03) 6423 1933
Email: senator.urquhart@aph.gov.au

Senator Peter Whish-Wilson (Launceston 7250)
Party: Australian Greens
Phone: (03) 6331 0033
Email: senator.whish-wilson@aph.gov.au

Victoria

Senator the Hon Kim Carr (Carlton South 3053)
Party: Australian Labour Party
Phone: (03) 9639 2798
Email: senator.carr@aph.gov.au

Senator the Hon Jacinta Collins (Box Hill 3128)
Party: Australian Labour Party
Phone: (03) 9890 7022
Email: senator.collins@aph.gov.au

Senator Richard Di Natale (Melbourne 3000)
Party: Australian Greens
Phone: (03) 9654 0430
Email: senator.dinatale@aph.gov.au

Senator the Hon Mitch Fifield (Mentone 3194)
Party: Liberal Party
Phone: (03) 9584 2455
Email: senator.fifield@aph.gov.au

Senator Derryn Hinch (Melbourne 3004)
Party: Darren Hinch’s Justice Party
Phone: (03) 9820 2222
Email: senator.hinch@aph.gov.au

Senator Jane Hume (Melbourne 3000)
Party: Liberal Party
Phone: (03) 9232 8820
Email: senator.hume@aph.gov.au

Senator Kimberley Kitching (Newport 3015)
Party: Australian Labour Party
Phone: (03) 9391 4952
Email: senator.kitching@aph.gov.au

Senator Gavin Marshall (North Melbourne 3051)
Party: Australian Labour Party
Phone: (03) 9348 9699
Email: senator.marshall@aph.gov.au

Senator Bridget McKenzie (Bendigo 3550)
Party: The Nationals
Phone: (03) 5441 4251
Email: senator.mckenzie@aph.gov.au

Senator James Paterson (East Melbourne 3002)
Party: Liberal Party
Phone: (03) 9650 0255
Email: senator.paterson@aph.gov.au

Senator Janet Rice (Coburg 3058)
Party: Australian Greens
Phone: (03) 9384 6199
Email: senator.rice@aph.gov.au

Senator the Hon Scott Ryan (Moonee Ponds 3039)
Party: Liberal Party
Phone: (03) 9326 1088
Email: senator.ryan@aph.gov.au

Western Australia

Senator Slade Brockman (Perth 6000)
Party: Liberal Party
Email: senator.brockman@aph.gov.au

Senator the Hon Michaelia Cash (West Perth 6005)
Party: Liberal Party
Phone: (08) 9226 2000
Email: senator.cash@aph.gov.au

Senator the Hon Mathias Cormann (Perth 6000)
Party: Liberal Party
Phone: (08) 9325 4227
Email: senator.cormann@aph.gov.au

Senator Patrick Dodson (Djugun 6725),
Party: Australian Labour Party
Phone: (08) 9193 5955
Email: senator.dodson@aph.gov.au

Senator Peter Georgiou (West Perth 6005)
Party: Pauline Hanson’s One Nation
Phone: (08) 9226 1750
Email: senator.georgiou@aph.gov.au

Senator Sue Lines (West Perth 6005)
Party: Australian Labour Party
Phone: (08) 9481 4844
Email: senator.lines@aph.gov.au

Senator Louise Pratt (Belmont 6104)
Party: Australian Labour Party
Phone: (08) 9277 1502
Email: senator.pratt@aph.gov.au

Senator Linda Reynolds CSC (Rivervale 6103)
Party: Liberal Party
Phone: (08) 9477 5411
Email: senator.reynolds@aph.gov.au

Senator Rachel Siewert (Northbridge 6003)
Party: Australian Greens
Phone: (08) 9228 3277
Email: senator.siewert@aph.gov.au

Senator Glenn Sterle (Canning Vale 6155)
Party: Australian Labour Party
Phone: (08) 9455 1420
Email: senator.sterle@aph.gov.au

Senator Dean Smith (West Perth 6005)
Party: Liberal Party
Phone: 08 9481 0349
Email: senator.smith@aph.gov.au