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Government must provide equitable access for free-to-air TV: Greens

Tuesday, 27 February

The Government is failing to support the rights of deaf, blind, hard-of-hearing and vision-impaired Australians to access the social, cultural and educational benefits of television, according to Australian Greens disability rights spokesperson Senator Jordon Steele-John.

Senator Steele-John posed questions of Communications Minister Mitch Fifield and his Department during estimates today about the accessibility of free-to-air television for vision and hearing impaired Australians.

“It is absolutely shameful that Australia continues to be the only English-speaking OECD country that does not have any audio-description service on free-to-air television," he said.

“That means there are more than 450,000 blind or vision-impaired Australians who are unable to enjoy television with friends and family, or reap the medium's educational benefits either.

“The government convened an Audio Description Working Group to address these issues in 2017 and reported to the Minister in December; this should be at the top of the government’s agenda, so why has the report not been made public?

Senator Steele-John also said that deaf and hearing-impaired Australians who rely on captions to access television currently do not have equitable access to all free-to-air channels despite the expansion of the service more than 10 years ago.

“When I asked the government why this issue hadn’t been addressed in 2013 when it was promised, they said that it was difficult to balance human rights with the burden of delivery.

“Human rights should never be a burden. Quite frankly I am disgusted by this response, and I am disgusted by the government’s lack of urgency concerning the very basic rights of people with a disability in Australia. I will continue to bring these issues to the attention of the Minister in Parliament when we return to sitting in March.”

Media contact:

Tim Oliver - 0448 316 387

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