The BBC, together with Channel 4 and ITV, announced today
that they would be making Audio Description available via digital satellite
Audio Description, or AD, is a service that provides
an additional audio commentary to describe what is happening on screen
for visually impaired viewers.
The BBC, ITV and Channel 4 have been working closely
with the RNIB (Royal National Institute of the Blind) and manufacturers
to develop an Audio Description system for blind and partially sighted
people known as Receiver Mix, the only system that fully meets the RNIB's
This version of AD can also be decoded by receivers
using a chip which can currently offer additional facilities such as
a spoken EPG (the Electronic Programme Guide which provides on-screen
scheduling information for digital viewers).
The technology is proven and manufacturers are beginning
to build it into the next generation of set-top boxes.
Hundreds of blind and partially sighted people are
already enjoying this service on digital terrestrial television via
a set-top box manufactured by Netgem.
It is a high quality, user friendly, technically efficient
system and, as public service broadcasters, we would like to see it
available to all viewers on every platform.
We are confident that Ofcom will encourage this process,
as they have a duty to encourage manufacturers to develop apparatus
which can easily be used by people with disabilities under the terms
of the 2003 Communications Act.
However, there are some blind and partially sighted
people (in particular some 2,000-3,000 Sky subscribers) who already
own set-top boxes which cannot receive Audio Description through the
Receiver Mix system but are able to receive the simpler Broadcast Mix
We have therefore decided, following discussions with
the RNIB, that we should offer Broadcast Mix as an interim measure until
Receiver Mix set-top boxes are available for every platform.
We intend to begin this service as soon as is practicable.
For information about Audio Description, call BBC Information
on 08700 100 789 or visit bbc.co.uk/reception.
Notes to Editors
Audio Description (AD) is a system which makes television
programmes more enjoyable to people with sight problems by providing
commentary to explain events during the silent parts of programmes,
for example, where there is no dialogue or narration.
Broadcast Mix AD is delivered to the user as part of
the programme and cannot therefore be adjusted in any way.
This way of providing AD does not have any other features.
Receiver Mix AD is delivered as an adjustable stream
- volume of the description can be adjusted separately to the volume
of the programme and headphones can be used to avoid disturbing other
viewers who do not want to use the service.
A speaking EPG allows people with sight problems to
select programmes much more easily.
Receiver Mix AD has been developed by the BBC's Kingswood
Warren Research and Development teams, together with manufacturers and