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2009 Research into the awareness and usage of Audio Description

03 Medi 2009

Executive summary

1.1 Overview

The following document contains the findings of Ipsos MORIs 2009 research into the awareness and usage of audio description, conducted on behalf of Ofcom. The research investigates awareness and usage of audio description (AD) among UK adults, as well as among those with visual impairments (VI). The research also looks at how users of audio description rate the service and the reasons and barriers which affect uptake.
Between 14th May and 10th June 2009, a total of 1,343 telephone interviews were conducted (1,000 with a representative sample of UK adults and 343 with a sample of people with a visual impairment). Among the visually impaired sample, quotas were set on level of impairment, using three categories mild, moderate and severe/ profound (-1-).

Ofcom has commissioned two previous surveys in 2008 designed to measure awareness and usage of AD. The first (survey 1) took place in January 2008, before a cross-media communications campaign (-2-) designed to increase awareness of audio description services, while the second (survey 2) was in March 2008 after the campaign. Where appropriate in this report, results are compared against the findings from these two previous surveys and significant differences at 99% confidence level are reported. Comparisons of subgroups within survey 3 are reported where significant at 95% confidence level.

(Note: some statistics contained in this report are based on small sample sizes and caution should be exercised when assessing such data. Figures calculated on small base sizes are indicated by an asterisk (*).)

1.2 Awareness of audio description

In 2009, the research shows that overall almost half of UK adults are aware of audio description (45%). Awareness is higher among younger respondents (54% among 18-34 year olds, compared to 37% among those aged over 55). Those with access to digital television platforms are also more likely to be aware of the service (47%, compared to 28% of those without digital television).

Half (50%) of those with VI are aware of AD. Awareness among those with a severe VI (61%) and those with a moderate VI (53%) is higher than those with a mild VI (37%). Awareness of AD is significantly higher among members of VI organisations than among those who are not (77%, compared to 42%).

Comparison of survey 1 and survey 3 results shows that awareness among UK adults has increased significantly from 37% to 45%. However, awareness is down compared to survey 2 (60%). This is to be expected as this survey took place immediately after a large cross-media communications campaign designed to raise awareness of AD services (-3-).

Among the VI sample, there are no significant changes in levels of awareness between survey 3 (50%) and survey 1 (43%) (-4-). When comparing the results from surveys 2 (69%) and 3 (50%), the difference suggests that although the concerted effort to raise awareness was successful in the short-term, more regular communications are required to sustain the increase measured in survey 2.

1.3 Sources of awareness of audio description

Respondents who were aware of AD were asked how they became aware. In 2009 among UK adults who are aware of AD, adverts and TV promotions are the most common way of finding out about AD (31%). TV listings also play an important role (24%), as do word of mouth recommendations from friends and family (15%). There are no significant differences between surveys 1 and 3. Comparison of results from surveys 2 and 3 shows that adverts and TV promotions are less dominant as a source of awareness about AD (60% and 31% respectively), which is not surprising as survey 2 took place immediately after the communications campaign.

In 2009, among those with VI, organisations are key in raising awareness (28%), particularly for those whose vision is severely/profoundly impaired (43%*). Just under one quarter (23%*) of those with VI found out through adverts/ TV promotions and just under one in five (19%*) found out about AD through friends and family.

Compared to survey 1, organisations remain a key source (28% in survey 3 compared to 27% in survey 1). Friends and family is less frequently mentioned (19% in survey 3 and 36% in survey 1), although stable compared to survey 2 (17%). There is no change in adverts/TV promotions as a source compared to survey 1 (23% and 21% respectively) but, unsurprisingly, it is down compared to the post communications campaign survey 2 (55%).

1.4 Usage of audio description

The research shows that in 2009 among UK adults, around one in ten respondents report that they have used AD at least once (11%). The level of overall reported usage has remained stable compared to surveys 1 and 2 (8% and 9% respectively).

Among those with VI, around one in five has used the service (21%). This reported level of usage is stable compared to survey 1 (28%), but down compared to survey 2 (32%).

Usage levels vary by impairment level, with 38% of those with a severe/profound impairment reporting that they have used the service, compared to 14% of those with a moderate/mild impairment. Also 29%* of those with a severe/profound VI say they use AD regularly compared to 13% of all those with a VI.

Around half of those with VI who use the service report that they have been doing so for less than a year (47%*).
The research shows that the most common way for VI users to find out about television programmes that contain AD is via the Electronic Programme Guide (45%*). The next most mentioned sources are family and friends (27%*), advertising or trailers on TV (25%*) and websites (25%*).

Compared to survey 1, a smaller proportion of VI users name family or friends as a source of information about programmes that contain AD (51% in survey 1, compared to 27% in survey 3). Compared to survey 2, there is a smaller proportion using advertising or trailers on TV (48% in survey 2, compared to 25% in survey 3), which is unsurprising given the communication campaign which preceded survey 2. TV guides are also less likely to be named compared to survey 2 (22% in survey 3, versus 44% in survey 2).

1.5 Satisfaction with audio description

Satisfaction with audio description among users is high. Over eight in ten of those with VI who use AD say that they are satisfied with the quality of the description available through AD services (82%*), 8%* are neither satisfied nor dissatisfied. Only a small minority express dissatisfaction (7%*). Satisfaction with the quality of audio description is high across all surveys of the research.

Moreover, when asked to rate specific aspects of AD, users are positive:

  • 96%* agree that AD improves their understanding and enjoyment of the programmes they watch;
  • 89%* agree that the AD is distinct from the sound track;
  • 86%* agree that AD is clear;
  • 84%* agree that AD is delivered at the right speed;
  • 71%* agree that the service accurately reflects what is going on in the programme;
  • 48%* say that the service is improving; 45% that it is unchanged and just 1% says it is getting worse.

1.6 Latent demand for audio description

In order to assess levels of interest in AD among those who are unaware, respondents were played an audio clip of audio described programming and then asked how interested they were in the service. After listening to the clip, just over one in five UK adults who are currently unaware of AD expressed an interest in the service (21%). Levels of interest are understandably much higher among those with VI who are currently unaware, with just over two thirds expressing an interest (68%). Those with a severe or profound visual impairment are most likely to be interested in the service (84%). Moreover, almost two thirds of those with VI who are unaware of the service and interested in using it already have Sky or Virgin (61%) and could therefore access AD through their existing TV equipment.

1.7 Factors that contribute to using audio description

In order to identify factors that may affect take-up of AD services, the VI sample were asked what would encourage them to use the service/use it more.

Around three in ten (29%) of all those with VI (users and non-users) spontaneously say that they would use the service/use the service more if their sight were to deteriorate. Just over one quarter (27%) of all those with VI say that they would use the service/use the service more if it were available on more programmes. This is a similar proportion to previous surveys, which suggests that availability is a consistent driver of usage. Among users of the service, 58%* spontaneously mention availability compared to 19% of non-users.

Just over one in ten (14%) of all those with VI say knowing how to access the service would encourage usage, whereas 12% say nothing would increase their usage of the service. Just 4% mention having more information about it. This is significantly down compared to survey 1 and survey 2 (21% and 16% respectively).

Those with VI who currently use AD were asked directly whether they would make more use of the service if it was available on more programmes, with 84%* saying they would. This is also a similar proportion to previous surveys, suggesting that availability is a consistent driver of usage.

1.8 Reasons for not using audio description

Among those with VI, those who were aware of the service but had never used it were asked their reasons for this. Forty percent (40%*) said that they do not need it. One in six (17%*) say that they do not know how to access it. Fourteen percent say they do not like it, whereas just over ten percent (13%) say they do not have the equipment.

Among those with VI who have used AD, just under a third (32%*) say that they would not know where to go if they were unable to access AD, wanted to find out more, or to complain.

1.9 Conclusions

The research shows that awareness among UK adults has increased from surveys 1 to 3, although it is down compared to survey 2. Among the VI sample, there are no significant changes in levels of awareness between surveys 1 and 3. However, as with the UK adult sample, awareness levels are down in survey 3 compared to survey 2. The difference suggests that more regular communications are required to sustain the increase in awareness achieved in survey 2.

The research shows that reported usage of AD has remained stable compared to survey 1 among UK adults and among those with VI. Among those with VI who are users of AD, reported satisfaction levels remain high. There also continues to be a latent demand for the service. After being played a clip of AD, almost seven in ten (68%) of those with VI who were previously unaware of the service said that they would be interested in using it.

Footnotes:

  1.- Mild: ranging from difficulties seeing small details on a screen to recognising a friend across a road; Moderate: ranging from difficulties recognising a friend across a room to reading a newspaper headline; Severe/ Profound: ranging from difficulty recognising a friend if he/ she is at arms length to total blindness. The full categories are provided in Section 3.2.

  2.- See Access Services Audio Description: Research into awareness levels for findings from survey 1 and survey 2 research into awareness and usage of audio description undertaken in 2008.

  3.- Ofcom facilitated a substantial communications campaign involving 16 broadcasters and the RNIB, aimed at raising awareness of audio description services. The Audio Description Awareness Campaign took place over a 6 week period during February/March 2008 on television and was supported by off-screen activity including continuity announcements and BBC local radio trails. The RNIB provided additional support for the campaign through press and radio advertisements, radio and print features, digital forums and direct mail.

  4.- Findings within survey 3 are tested for statistically significant differences at the 95% level, while inter-survey comparisons are tested at the 99% level.

The full document is available below