Audio description (AD) is a optional digital television service that provides a commentary for people with visual impairments describing on screen action, facial expression and other visual elements of the programme in question. Clearly, awareness of AD is vital if people with visual impairments are to benefit from it. Research commissioned by Ofcom in 2008 and 2009 found that, amongst UK adults, awareness of AD was much lower than for subtitling and signing. The research published today follows an awareness campaign mounted by broadcasters at Ofcom's behest and shows that awareness has risen from 37% in 2009 to 60% in 2012. This latest research was carried out by Marketing Sciences Limited and investigates awareness of AD among UK adults. It was conducted 12 months after broadcasters mounted the on-air awareness campaign.
Ofcom has commissioned three previous surveys designed to measure awareness of AD. The first (survey 1) took place in January 2008, before a previous cross-media awareness campaign, while the second (survey 2) was in March 2008 after the campaign. The third survey was conducted in May/June 2009 (survey 3). In this report, results are compared against the findings from survey 1 and 3. Comparisons with survey 2 will not be drawn as survey 2 was conducted immediately on the back of an intensive ad campaign and so as to be expected the awareness levels were significantly higher and therefore the results of survey 2 are not an accurate representation of general level of awareness.
In 2013, the research shows that overall 60% of UK adults are spontaneously aware of audio description, this increases to 67% after prompting with an example clip. Awareness is higher among younger respondents (73% among 25-34 year olds, compared to 55% among those aged 55-64, 51% among those aged 65-74 and 42% among those aged 75+). Comparison of with awareness levels prior to the first campaign in 2008 show that spontaneous awareness among UK adults has increased significantly from 37% in 2008 to 60% in 2013.
This survey also sought to understand whether those who were aware of AD told others about this service and if so whom did they tell. The research found that of the 67% of respondents who were aware of AD (both spontaneous and prompted awareness), 15% told someone else about the service. When respondents were asked whom they told about the service, the vast majority claimed they told a relative, 9%.