TV Help Audio Description: Main index

Hot News

Audio Description Digital Televisions now on sale

9 June 2007
We now list a selection of Digital Televisions that are either already available to buy or will be very soon and can be ordered. The list of sixteen models from Sony and Panasonic range in price from under £500 to nearly £2000.

Updated information on Virgin Media

11 May 2007
The website now contains some updated information on Virgin Media.

New IDTVs from Sony and Panasonic

24 January 2007
Both Sony and Panasonic will be releasing a new range of Integrated Digital Televisions with Audio Description from April this year. An IDTV has the advantage of being all-in-one. No additional boxes to wire up and plug in. Just connect your aerial and turn it on. Digital television straight in, and now with Audio Description too. Look out for more news as we get it!

Cold Olds


29 September 2006
NTL are now offering audio description in a number of areas. For information on how to receive it, click here.

Portset Digital Media Centre

Portset are now making a Digital Media Centre which combines a Freeview receiver with a DVD player. Features include: For more information, visit Portset's website or call them on 01489 893919.


13 January 2006
Telewest are now offering audio description on their digital cable network! For information on how to receive it, click here.

a-TV project

New work is being done to develop a set-top box that can provide not just audio description, but fully-featured talking menus! To find out more, visit the project website at In particular, please could you take the time to fill in the questionnaire. Many thanks!

BBC's Press Release

21 June 2004
The BBC, together with Channel 4 and ITV, announced today that they would be making Audio Description available via digital satellite television.

Audio Description, or AD, is a service that provides an additional audio commentary to describe what is happening on screen for visually impaired viewers.

The BBC, ITV and Channel 4 have been working closely with the RNIB (Royal National Institute of the Blind) and manufacturers to develop an Audio Description system for blind and partially sighted people known as Receiver Mix, the only system that fully meets the RNIB's specifications.

This version of AD can also be decoded by receivers using a chip which can currently offer additional facilities such as a spoken EPG (the Electronic Programme Guide which provides on-screen scheduling information for digital viewers).

The technology is proven and manufacturers are beginning to build it into the next generation of set-top boxes.

Hundreds of blind and partially sighted people are already enjoying this service on digital terrestrial television via a set-top box manufactured by Netgem.

It is a high quality, user friendly, technically efficient system and, as public service broadcasters, we would like to see it available to all viewers on every platform.

We are confident that Ofcom will encourage this process, as they have a duty to encourage manufacturers to develop apparatus which can easily be used by people with disabilities under the terms of the 2003 Communications Act.

However, there are some blind and partially sighted people (in particular some 2,000 to 3,000 Sky subscribers) who already own set-top boxes which cannot receive Audio Description through the Receiver Mix system but are able to receive the simpler Broadcast Mix system.

We have therefore decided, following discussions with the RNIB, that we should offer Broadcast Mix as an interim measure until Receiver Mix set-top boxes are available for every platform.

We intend to begin this service as soon as is practicable.

For information about Audio Description, call BBC Information on 08700 100 789 or visit

Netgem released i-Player AD

Netgem have released the UK's first set-top box capable of receiving audio description. Check out more details of their audio describing i-Player.

Netgem's Press Release

13th January 2004
- New audio description tool changes TV experience -

The UK's first Freeview set-top box that enhances blind and visually impaired people's experience of television is being launched today.

A version of the Netgem i-Player with an audio description function that helps the visually impaired understand what's going on is now available. During TV programmes, the new tool gives spoken details of key visual elements, such as a change in location, movements, interaction, and even clothes people are wearing. This gives blind people the context and helps them to set the scene and recreate the drama, suspense or comedy when watching TV.

The tailored i-Player, which is endorsed by the RNIB and the BBC, is now available for a one-off payment of £119. The audio description function is available on such programmes as: Eastenders, Coronation Street, Emmerdale, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, The Office, Friends, Fimbles and The Hoobs.

In addition to the audio description function, the i-Player is the only set-top box which gives users access to Freeview TV and radio, and also to the Internet.

Clive Miller, digital broadcasting development officer at the RNIB said:

"This is a very exciting time, as the i-Player is the first and only Freeview set-top box that makes audio description available to the general public. The service is massively important for blind people, because many TV programmes are hard to follow just by listening. With audio description, blind people know what's happening, without having to guess or ask someone, and that means they relax and enjoy it, just like everyone else. It also enables them to talk about programmes on an equal basis. We think the i-Player is fantastic - it offers a very friendly approach and even tells people what channel they are watching!"

The BBC today welcomed Netgem's announcement that the i-Player is now available which will offer audio description to blind and partially sighted viewers.

Welcoming this new development Greg Dyke, the BBC's Director General, said:

"This development follows many years of research involving the BBC's engineers at Kingswood Warren and the RNIB. We are delighted that Netgem are now the first manufacturers to integrate this system into their boxes, and very much hope that manufacturers of all set top boxes and iDTVs will also enable blind and partially sighted users to receive audio description in this way in the near future. The technology is now available for blind and partially sighted people to enjoy audio description in the best way possible, and to suit their needs."

Netgem is also working with the RNIB to improve blind people's enjoyment of television further by adding an audio channel guide, delivered over the internet, which will provide a spoken TV Guide. This is due to be launched later this year.

Five activate audio description on satellite

Five (the new name for Channel 5) have announced that they are now making their audio description available on Satellite, thereby increasing the number of people able to receive it from 45 to 7.1 million. A step forward!

Five's Press Release

Tuesday 18 November 2003
Five launches audio description on digital satellite.
Five is to mark the International Day of Disabled Persons on 3rd December 2003 by becoming the first UK public service broadcaster to offer audio description services on digital satellite television. The adoption by Five of BSkyB's audio description technology will enable blind and visually impaired people to enjoy a wider choice of accessible programmes.
Developed and pioneered by BSkyB, the audio description functionality already provides digital satellite viewers in more than seven million homes with more than 3,000 hours of audio described programmes each year on BSkyB's own channels, which include Sky One, Sky Sports and Sky Movies. Five is the first third-party broadcaster to take advantage of the technology, which enhances accessibility of television programmes by allowing blind and visually impaired viewers to hear a description of what the characters on screen are doing.
Five currently broadcasts around 10 hours of audio described programmes each week, representing 6% of its programming across the year. Five’s audio described programmes during 2003 have included the drama series Magnum, Starsky & Hutch and Charlie’s Angels, in addition to at least one peak-time film each week. Until now, Five's audio description services have been available only to a very limited number of digital terrestrial homes with the necessary specialist equipment.
Jane Lighting, Five's Chief Executive said:
Five is a member of the Broadcasting and Creative Industries Disability Network (BCIDN) and is highly committed to increasing access to its programmes and services on and off air. I am very pleased that we are able to enhance our service for blind and partially sighted people in this way.

Ray Gallagher, BSkyB’s Director of Public Affairs and industry Chair of the BCIDN said:
BSkyB is delighted that Five is to take advantage of Sky digital's audio description capability. The launch represents an important step forward in increasing the range of accessible programmes and services that blind and visually impaired people can enjoy through digital satellite television. We congratulate Five on its commitment to offering accessible services to satellite viewers.

Information on how to set up your satellite receiver to access the audio description, and for listings of Five's audio described programmes, is available at

For further information, contact RNIB's Broadcasting team.