Working for People with Sight Loss

NCBI Renews Call for Increased Audio Description Services in Irish Programming

A man watching TV with his headphones

 

Wednesday 16th June 2021, NCBI (National Council for the Blind of Ireland) today reiterated their call for an increase in the availability for audio description on Irish progamming and broadcast media.

Tomorrow’s (16/6) Joint Oireachtas Committee on Tourism, Culture, Arts, Sport and Media will sit to discuss the future of media in Ireland with representatives from The Future of Media Commission.  As part of this discussion, NCBI will be hoping that an increase in audio description targets will feature.

June Tinsley, Head of Advocacy and Communications, said, “Audio description, or the lack thereof, has been an ongoing issue for a number of years.  We have long campaigned for an increase to the current BAI recommendations of 6% – which is too low in itself”.

A recent study carried out by Lenstore.co.uk has focused on the level of audio description available on streaming services.  Netflix UK and Ireland has over 6,300 titles available to users, but only 25.4% of these titles have audio description available.  As of January 2021, Disney+ provide audio description on 62.6% of their 1,100 titles.

Ms Tinsley said, “Many of our service users avail of audio description services to ensure they aren’t missing out on the different social cues that occur in soaps or sitcoms.  These cues are often important to the overall storyline, and when audio description services are unavailable our service users are missing out unlike their sighted peers”.

The current target of audio description in Irish televised broadcasting is 5%, as set out by the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI).  RTE and Virgin Media fulfill this requirement by ‘buying in’ programming from the UK with audio description already available, mainly from providers such as ITV and BBC.  Furthermore, only 6% of programming available on RTÉ Jnr is audio described.  Targets set by the BAI for 2023 are 10% for Irish programming, however this is less than half the rate already available on Netflix.

Ms Tinsley concluded “Streaming services aren’t currently covered under BAI Access targets, yet they are out preforming Irish broadcasters in terms of accessibility for the blind or vision impaired community.  As part of the reimagining and restructuring that the Future of Media Commission hope to do, audio description needs to be on their radar”.