Joint with Carol Brown, Shadow Minister for Disability and Carers.
A Shorten Labor Government will deliver a fair go for blind and low vision Australians by implementing audio description over broadcast television.
That is why Labor has announced $4 million for the national broadcasters, the ABC and SBS, to upgrade their systems and processes to deliver 14 hours of audio described TV content per week, starting in 2019-20.
Australia is the only English-speaking country in the OECD yet to provide audio description – an additional feature that describes the visual elements happening on screen that sighted people take for granted. This is shameful.
Australians living with blindness or low vision should have equal access to television, and our national broadcasters should lead the way in delivering audio description in Australia.
Labor acknowledges the financial and technical challenges that implementation of audio description may involve for some television broadcasters.
That is why a Shorten Labor Government will work constructively with the wider broadcast industry to develop a framework and timetable for the implementation of audio description by commercial and subscription services.
Labor supported licence fee relief for commercial broadcasters in 2017 stating how important it is that Australians reap a return on the use of the radiofrequency spectrum – a valuable public asset – including blind and low vision Australians who need audio description.
In accordance with the co-regulatory system of broadcast regulation, and in the event the framework and timetable is not satisfactorily implemented, Labor will move to legislate for audio description.
Labor is a longstanding supporter of equality of access to television in Australia.
In 2010 Labor initiated the investigation into ‘Access to Electronic Media for the Hearing and Vision Impaired’.
In 2012 Labor legislated for captioning to improve access to television for deaf and hearing impaired Australians, and funded a 13-week trial of audio description on the ABC for blind and low vision Australians.
In six long years, this Liberal Government has achieved nothing other than a further trial and a report, which they’ve sat on since 2017.
What’s more, for nearly two years, the Liberals have been trying to cut funding from the National Relay Service and even referred to it as a “safety net’ – language Labor rejects.
The NRS is an essential service which enables every Australian, irrespective of disability or impairment, to make and receive telephone calls. It was founded on principles of access and equity and, under Labor, these principles will be preserved.
Under a Shorten Labor Government, the NRS will remain accessible and equitable – this is the number one priority. The service will be properly funded to meet the community’s genuine needs. Furthermore, every service that is currently available 24/7 will remain available 24/7.
After years of delay on the implementation of audio description on television, and cuts to the ABC and SBS, Australia can’t afford another term of this Liberal Government.