Audio Description Now Available on Sky

Since late October 2012, Sky Television has included audio description in its broadcasts of TVNZ One and Two. This is available to all Sky customers with no need for new equipment and no need to change your Sky plan. This is a very significant development as it brings audio description on TVNZ One and Two directly to the many New Zealanders that are Sky subscribers.

It must be remembered that only some programs are broadcast with audio description. One way to find out what programmes are coming up with AD is to use the Royal New Zealand Foundation of the Blind's telephone information service, which has programme listings for a range of TV channels and radio stations on option 2. You can phone TIS and take option 2, then choose the day of the week and then choose from the available stations. When you read the listings for TVNZ One and Two, you will hear which programmes will have audio description.

Another way is to go to the new TVNZ website that focuses on audio description and captioning. Just go to tvnz.co.nz/access-services and then choose the link for audio description, and then the link to programmes with audio description. This is updated from week to week and gives you a list of all the programmes in the coming week or two that will have audio description.

Blind Citizens NZ will continue to encourage Sky Television to start broadcasting audio descriptions on its most popular movie channels, but in the meantime it is only available on selected programmes broadcast on TVNZ One and Two.

Here are the instructions for Sky subscribers if you want to switch your decoder to hear audio description when it is being broadcast on TVNZ One or Two. We have written these instructions with blind people in mind so if you are blind you can hopefully do this without sighted assistance.

First for what are known as "legacy" decoders, ie if you do not have MySky:

  • 1. Press 1 or 2 on your remote control to switch to TVNZ One or Two.
  • 2. It is important to wait for at least five to ten seconds after changing channels before pressing the next button.
  • 3. Press the plus button to bring up the captions and audio language list. The plus button is directly below the left arrow key.
  • 4. Press the down arrow once to switch to the Italian language. Don't worry. This just refers to the technical name of the audio track that has been allocated to audio description; but be assured what you will hear will still be in English.
  • 5. Press the select button to confirm the selection. The select button is in the centre of the four arrow keys. You might hear a short audio pause as your decoder switches.

At this point, if audio description is being broadcast on the channel you are tuned to, you should hear it come through. If you change channels, the setting will be lost so you will have to repeat the process again to get audio description again.

If when you follow this procedure you just get silence, it could be that your decoder is too old. We are aware that this can be a problem and Sky should replace your decoder with a new one at no charge. Sky Television has assured us that all customers with older legacy decoders are entitled to receive audio description when it is available on TVNZ One and Two.

For MySky subscribers:

  • 1. Press 1 or 2 on your remote control to switch to TVNZ One or Two.
  • 2. Press the setup button. This is a small round button just above and slightly to the left of the arrow keys.
  • 3. Press the down arrow once to get to audio languages.
  • 4. Press the right arrow once to get to Italian.
  • 5. Press the select button to confirm the selection.

At this point, if audio description is being broadcast on the channel you are tuned to, you should hear it come through. If you change channels, the setting will be lost so you will have to repeat the process again to get audio description again.

Regarding step 3, we believe that when you are on TVNZ One or Two, one press of the down arrow is needed. However we are aware of circumstances in which this may not be the case. It means there might be situations where the sequence as described above may not work.

However MySky subscribers do have the option of setting the decoder so it will always switch to audio description if it is available. This means you don't have to follow the above procedure to switch to audio description each time you change channels. It will happen automatically so you will always hear audio description if it is being broadcast. This might be an attractive option for you if you can't see the screen and you often don't have sighted assistance available. This is quite an involved procedure and it might be best for blind people to seek sighted assistance when doing this, because if you make a mistake, you might end up changing another setting and then locking in that change in a way that you don't want. Therefore we will just describe this procedure in brief:

  • 1. Press Active on your remote.
  • 2. Go to System Setup.
  • 3. Go to System Settings.
  • 4. Go to Audio and Language Settings.
  • 5. Go to Preferred Language.
  • 6. Select Italian.
  • 7. Go to Save New Setting.

One of our members who has MySky has reported to us that she was able to get a Sky technician to visit her home and set it up for her. You might consider phoning Sky and asking them to do this if you have nobody on hand who can set it up for you.