Delivering audio description on TV commercials

Post date: 
Wednesday, 20 December 2017
Category: 
TV, Radio and Film

Author: Bill Brown - Head of Media Standards, ITV.

ITV has become the first UK broadcaster to provide the technical capability to broadcast HD commercials with embedded audio description. This happened when the Digital Production Partnership (DPP) Specification for the Delivery of HD Commercial and Sponsorship material was published last year.

This publication worked in conjunction with commercial delivery partners: Adstream, Group IMD, Honeycomb, Clearcast and playout partner Red Bee Media.

Following technical upgrade work and significant end-to-end testing, ITV broadcast its first audio described commercial for Fairy Liquid in August 2017. This enhanced functionality continues the journey towards making television advertising both accessible and inclusive.

ITV, along with other broadcasters, have transmitted audio description with programming for a significant period of time, but never for commercials. So, enabling advertisers to enrich their advertising with AD is an industry first which ITV has been proud to lead the way on.

The main challenges when implementing any new workflow are threefold and these principles were equally applicable to the rollout of audio described commercials. As already mentioned, we had to carryout technical upgrade work before we could operationally deliver the new service, including conducting thorough end-to-end testing before going live. Secondly, change management/process issues had to be addressed to ensure key stakeholders came on the journey with us and operational staff knew exactly what they needed to do, all of which was absolutely critical if our implementation was going to be a success. Finally, the other key factor we had to guard against before rolling out new on-air functionality was ensuring we didn’t introduce any significant risk into our end-to-end content supply chain.

Having successfully managed those challenges, I’m delighted the collaborative approach adopted by Adstream, Group IMD, Honeycomb and Red Bee Media enabled ITV to transmit the very first audio described commercial in the UK delivered in accordance with the requirements outlined in the new DPP Technical Delivery Specification, further demonstrating the continued commitment both ITV and the DPP have to supporting and enhancing accessibility for viewers who are blind or partially sighted.