Visually impaired and blind people must be able to follow more programs from the public broadcaster via audio description, in which a voice tells what can be seen on screen. An additional EUR 4 million must be allocated for this over the next four years.

    Today, in the debate on the Media Budget, government parties CDA and ChristenUnie, together with GroenLinks, are arguing for more money for audio description. A voice that – in between the dialogues – tells what is happening on screen, is not only important for the approximately 350,000 visually impaired and blind people in the Netherlands. “More and more elderly people are using it,” says CDA MP Lucille Werner. “Then the group suddenly grows by a few million.”

    By investing an extra 1 million euros per year in audio description over the next four years, the parties hope to increase the number of programs that are provided with the service. “For one season of Farmer seeks wife providing audio description costs about a ton”, estimates Werner, who took the initiative for the amendment to the Media Budget. “With this money, ten seasons of a program can be provided with additional audio description.”

    Audio description logo. © .

    More expensive than subtitling

    Recording programs is ‘very expensive’, admits Werner. “It is ten times more expensive than subtitling.” Nevertheless, the CDA member and former presenter thinks that audio description should be equated with subtitling. As a result, the hard of hearing and the deaf can also follow programs from the NPO. “We think that is very normal. But if a public broadcaster should be accessible to everyone, then audio description should not be neglected. Now we exclude people.”

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    The Media Act stipulates that ‘at least 95 percent’ of the programs on NPO are subtitled. No agreements have been made for audio description. Werner: “Amending the Media Act may be the next step.” She wants to ask State Secretary Gunay Uslu (Media, D66) whether that is necessary. The minister would like to look ‘benevolently’ at the plans of CDA, ChristenUnie and GroenLinks.

    Because audio description is more expensive, the service is limited in the Netherlands. Agreements have been made with the NPO about this – eight programmes/seasons with audio description every year – but according to Werner, these mean that the number of programs that have access to the service will not increase. “If you look at Europe, we are also lagging behind. There, 12 percent of the programs are provided with audio description. In the Netherlands we can be happy with 3 percent. That really needs to go up.”

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