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Writing to my MP re audio description

3rd May 2006 • Dave

Following an exchange on Wednesday 3 May involving myself, Channel 4 and RNIB regarding the lack of audio description at the start of season two of the ABC drama Lost, I decided to send the following message to my MP, Michael Foster, the member for Worcester.

The amount of feedback I have had about this has been fantastic. Thank you all!

I welcome any other suggestions for how best to advocate for an increase in the amount of optional audio description available via TV and DVD.

Many thanks.

Dear Michael Foster,

I am a young professional blind person who recently moved to the Bath Road area of your Worcester constituency.

A recent report published by Ofcom, the communications industry regulator, regarding the “Media Literacy of Disabled People” found:

“In comparison to all UK adults under 65, disabled people aged under 65 watch more TV, listen to more radio, and use the internet and mobile phones to a similar extent.”

As a blind person who does all of the above, I and many of my fellow constituents definitely fall into this demographic.

Audio description is an optional additional commentary that describes what is happening on the screen or the stage for people such as myself who have difficulty seeing the action, body language, facial expressions, costume or scenery. More information about audio description, including how to switch it on and off, can be found from the RNIB’s web site.

Ofcom are currently carrying out a vital consultation which will affect future audio description targets and as we live in an aging society which has an increasing number of partially sighted and blind people, it is important that Ofcom make sure these audio description targets are equitable.

Did you know for example that under existing requirements only 8% of the output of the major channels is available audio described compared with the announcement from Ofcom in July 2004 which will increase subtitling to around 80% by the end of the next parliament!

With two million people suffering from some kind of sight loss in the UK, how can the communications industry regulator justify only 8% of TV output being audio described when 80% will be subtitled. Are people with hearing loss 10 times more deserving than people with sight loss?

If Ofcom are permitted to allow this obscene inequality to continue, the industry regulator will not only be failing the industry itself, but government and most importantly disabled consumers.

I urge yourself and your party, who are supporters of social justice, to make good on your manifesto commitments to equality by showing your support for the RNIB’s campaign for at least 20% of TV output to be audio described by digital switchover.

Worcester is home to a world leading developer of computer software for blind people (Dolphin Computer Access based on the Blackpole Trading Estate)

Worcester is also home to a national school catering for people who are blind and visually impaired (New College on Whittington Road).

It is reasonable to anticipate that the number of blind and low vision constituents in Worcester is already increasing and will continue to do so in the near future.

With it’s strong ties to the blind community, Worcester should be a centre of excellence and be leading the way in advocating for services for people with sight loss. It is imperative that you and your government take appropriate action to make sure Ofcom do not leave this inequality unchecked.

Below I include a recent complaint I submitted to Channel 4 after the channel dropped audio description at the start of the second season of a high profile primetime drama.

Yours sincerely,

Categories: TV
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