Follow Sony Europe

Sony Welcomes Ofcom Campaign to Help the Blind and Partially Sighted Enjoy TV

Press release   •   Feb 27, 2008 01:00 CET

Weybridge, 27 th February 2008 - Sony today publicly welcomed the recently launched Ofcom Audio Description (AD) Awareness Campaign running from February to March 2008 and calls for other countries to catch up with the UK’s AD education process. The Ofcom AD Awareness Campaign highlights the same need for education among consumers as outlined in the Europe-wide 2007 BRAVIA initiative by Sony, which raised awareness of Audio Description throughout the TV industry by working with organisations such as the Royal National Institute of the Blind (RNIB).

The Ofcom campaign will screen promotional trails across more than 70 television channels, to explain what AD is and invite viewers to find out more about the service. The initiative is an alliance of broadcasters and the RNIB, facilitated by Ofcom. AD is an additional narrative soundtrack for blind or partially sighted people. During gaps in programme dialogue, an additional voice explains visual plot points, enabling visually impaired people to follow the storyline more fully.

In the UK, broadcasters are legally required to provide Audio Description content. Current regulations state that the BBC, for example, must audio describe at least 8 per cent of its programmes per week. While broadcasters in other countries, such as France and Germany, do offer some level of AD supported programming, most campaigners agree that in order for it to become truly valuable for blind and partially sighted people, European broadcasters need to be legally obliged to offer it as a service.

“We are all used to seeing and using subtitles on TV, but what many people don’t know is that the technology exists to make a similarly useful service available for the 30 million1 or so visually impaired people we have in Europe,” says Hiroshi Sakamoto, Vice President TV Operations Europe at Sony. “The UK is leading the way and it is important that the rest of Europe does not fall behind. With the opportunities presented by digital broadcast channels today, Sony believes that the ability to enjoy a great televisual experience should not be the preserve of those that can see, but should also be accessible to blind and partially sighted people.”

AD is available on a variety of television programmes throughout Europe but generally has only been accessible through the purchase of a separate set-top box or satellite receiver. Through technological advancements announced in 2007, all BRAVIA televisions include Integrated Digital Television (IDTV) as standard and provide access to AD without the need for an additional decoder.

Most television manufacturers now have products that offer IDTV, a built-in digital tuner that does away with need for a separate set-top box for converting digital channels. However, few have the ability to offer AD access. Engineers and designers at Sony constantly assess and refine every aspect of BRAVIA TVs to ensure that they are as good as they can possibly be. One result of this scrutiny is a new, more powerful audiovisual processor, capable of decoding multiple audio channels and thereby providing access to AD in addition to other aesthetic benefits.

“Since launching its first Trinitron Colour Television in 1968, Sony has grown to become one of the world’s leading audio-visual electronics and information technology companies,” continued Mr Sakamoto. “Our entire BRAVIA television range provides access to Audio Description as standard which, in combination with a commitment to raise awareness of AD, aims to increase the number of programmes, broadcasters and television manufacturers that offer the service.”

1 A Vision For Inclusion: A guide to the European Blind Union ( June 2004)