PIAC has called for changes to the Broadcasting Services Act 1992 (Cth) to make TV accessible to the more than 350,000 people who are blind or have low vision, by requiring a minimum level of programs be broadcast with audio description.
PIAC has made the call in a submission to the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) in its statutory review of Part 9D of the Broadcasting Services Act 1992 (Cth).
Part 9D of the Broadcasting Services Act 1992 (Cth) (BSA) was introduced in 2012, and provided for captioning standards in Australian television to facilitate increased access to television services for persons with a hearing impairment.
PIAC submitted that relatively simple amendments to Part 9D of the BSA could gradually introduce audio description, and thereby improve access to television services for persons with blindness or low vision across Australia.
Audio description is a second audio track that can be turned on and off. It describes the important visual elements of a television program such as actions, scene changes, gestures and facial expressions that a person who is blind or has low vision can’t see.
There have been gradual increases of audio description in the USA and the United Kingdom in recent years, with some broadcasters in the UK now audio describing 20 per cent of broadcast content.
PIAC noted that an individual watching Home and Away in the UK would have access to audio description, but that an individual watching it in Australia would not.
PIAC called on the ACMA to facilitate dialogue regarding the potential models that could be pursued for gradually introducing audio description. PIAC submitted that this consultation should include consideration of the minimum percentages and/or minimum hours broadcast that are required to be audio described.
At present, PIAC is representing claimants in two separate civil claims seeking action on audio description a disability discrimination claim against the Australian Broadcasting Corporation in the Federal Circuit Court for its failure to provide any audio described programs on free-to-air television and a complaint against the Commonwealth Government to the Australian Human Rights Commission for it’s failure to take adequate steps to provide for audio description in Australia, which is currently before the Federal Court
The ACMA is required to conduct the review by 31 December 2016, and to report to the Federal Government before 30 June 2017.