MICHELLE ROWLAND MP
SHADOW MINISTER FOR COMMUNICATIONS
MEMBER FOR GREENWAY
LABOR WELCOMES FUNDING FOR TV AUDIO DESCRIPTION
Labor welcomes the Morrison Government’s announcement that it has adopted Labor’s policy of providing the ABC and SBS $2 million each to introduce audio description of television for blind and low-vision Australians by next year.
Labor is a longstanding supporter of equality of access to television in Australia and it is shameful that it has taken this Liberal Government over six long years to deliver on this human rights issue.What is unclear, however, is whether this audio description will be delivered over broadcast TV or online catch-up services, or both, when the Government’s own report notes that:
“broadcast television is still the most popular medium for most Australians, particularly older Australians, who currently comprise the majority of people who are blind or vision impaired”
“Older Australians and those with disability are less likely to have access to the internet and digital technology”.
Australia is the only English-speaking nation in the OECD not to offer audio-description on free-to-air television, yet the Morrison Government remains silent on a plan for implementation of audio description on other television services.
Labor acknowledges the financial and technical challenges that implementation of audio description may involve for some television broadcasters.
That is why a Labor committed to work constructively with the wider broadcast industry to develop a framework and timetable for the implementation of audio description by commercial and subscription services.
In 2017, Labor supported licence fee relief for commercial broadcasters stating how important it is that Australians reap a return on the use of the radiofrequency spectrum – a valuable public asset – including for blind and low vision Australians who need audio description.
Australia lags behind the rest of the world on audio description and it is well past time that blind and low vision Australians received a fair go.