Irish regulator suggests modest audio description targets

Friday, 30 May 2014 15:32pm

The Irish broadcasting regulator, the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland, has commenced a consultation period looking at possible changes to the access rules governing television in Ireland. The rules cover subtitling (captioning), audio description and Irish sign language and include suggested targets for each area.

Included in this is a requirement for an audio description service on the National Television and Radio Broadcaster, RTE, with an initial target of 1.5% of programming, growing to 2.5% of programming by 2018. This equates to less than one hour per day and contrasts with the UK, where Irish channels source a lot of programs and which has a target of 10% and actual services of double and even triple that quota on some channels.

“One disturbing statement in the consultation document is that restricting audio description to the public broadcaster RTE is following a European norm,” said Media Access Australia CEO, Alex Varley.

“That approach is more prevalent in non-English speaking countries, but given that Irish channels could easily source audio-described British programs that are regularly screened, this is a real let-down for Irish vision-impaired viewers.”

The same document also looks at captioning targets and includes the variable Irish approach, where the quota is not fixed, but instead has a range. The rationale for this is that the lower end of the quota allows broadcasters to focus on “more difficult” programing, such as live programs. 

“Captioning live programming is hardly a new innovation, it has been around since the early 1990s,” said Varley. “These days, many thousands of hours are live captioned on individual channels each year.” 

In a related announcement, RTE said that it would launch its audio description service later in the year with the British soap opera EastEnders.

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