Research conducted by academics at DKIT, IADT, RTÉ and DCU and funded by Coimisiún na Meán
A new research report relating to services used by the vision impaired to access television content has been launched this morning (27.06.23) at an event hosted by Coimisiún na Meán.
Entitled ‘Investigating a Standardised Approach to Setting Audio Description Dip Values’, the aim of the research is to better understand the relationship between audio-described TV programme volume levels and the perceived quality of the programme’s audio descriptions.
The report, which was completed in June 2023, summarises overall findings from the multi-stage research project and suggests actions that may be taken by industry practitioners to create more standardised AD production practices and an improved listening experience for vision impaired service users.
Funded by Coimisiún na Meán through its Sectoral Learning & Development Diversity programme, the research was conducted by Kieran Lynch from Dundalk Institute of Technology & Dun Laoghaire Institute of Art, Design and Technology and Oran O’Neill from RTÉ, in collaboration with Professor Tomás Ward from the Insight SFI Research Centre for Data Analytics, Dublin City University. The National Council for the Blind of Ireland also played a significant role in enabling the completion of the work.
Audio Description (AD) is a commentary that gives a viewer who is blind or vision impaired a verbal description of what is happening on the television screen at any given moment. In order for the narration to be clear, the original programme material may require a reduction, or Dip, in volume, so as to prevent masking of the audio descriptions. The Dip Value (DV) is the resultant amount by which the programme material is reduced. The study examines how AD production practices can be improved, how greater consistency can be brought to the setting of AD volume levels, and how the listening experience can be enhanced for AD Access service users.
The research was carried out across a number of stages, comprising:
Commenting on the research, Kieran Lynch said: “It is clear from our research that not only is accessibility hugely important when it comes to audience inclusion but so too is the quality of the access services provided. Audio Description services should bring consistent clarity to the descriptive passages, while also maintaining the integrity of the original programme’s narrative. However, the evidence here suggests that AD user experiences are inconsistent across broadcast and streaming services, that these inconsistencies stem from a lack of industry recommendations and guidelines for setting Audio Description Dip Values, and quite often this technical task is carried out by non-technical production personnel. It is therefore important to establish a set of technical standards and guidelines for setting appropriate AD Dip Values.
“We feel that best practice in the production of AD content is to employ experienced, professional sound engineers when setting Audio Description Dip Values. However, we recognise that this is not always an option and therefore the proposed set of technical actions should allow AD producers to bring consistent quality to their content and positively impact the vision impaired community.”
Broadcasting Commissioner Celene Craig added: “Coimisiún na Meán is committed to ensuring a thriving, diverse and safe media landscape, building on the work of our predecessor, the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland. The BAI conducted a review in 2022 of the Access Rules, which are designed to increase the understanding and enjoyment of television by people who are deaf, hard of hearing, blind or partially sighted. Over the coming year, An Coimisiún will conduct a public consultation as part of the revision of these rules. The research published today will help to inform discussions and policy developments in this area.”
Contact: Joanne Ahern / Síona Cahill, DHR Communications. Tel: 087-9881837 / 087-753 0255.
Notes for Editors:
About Coimisiún na Meán:
Coimisiún na Meán is Ireland’s new commission for regulating broadcasters, on demand and online media, and for supporting media development. Established in March 2023 under the Online Safety and Media Regulation Act 2022, it builds on the work of its predecessor, the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland. It is responsible for ensuring and maintaining a thriving, diverse and safe media landscape in Ireland that facilitates a mix of voices, opinions and sources of news and current affairs.
Its responsibilities are to:
Coimisiún na Meán is led by an Executive Chairperson, and currently includes an Online Safety Commissioner, a Media Development Commissioner, and a Broadcasting Commissioner. Recruitment is currently underway for a Digital Services Commissioner.