Audio description on the BBC iPlayer application

iOS & iPadOS


Has anyone else noticed that when you play an episode from the TV series with audio description, for example, episode one, the second and subsequent episodes in a TV series do not have audio description even though you selected that category?
What can I do about this?



Submitted by Adrienne on Monday, September 4, 2017

It’s a problem with the app. You can usually only get the last programme to have been broadcast with description, unless multiple episodes appear on the audio description home page. You can’t download described programmes either.

I have written to them many times about this issue. Subtitles are treated entirely differently by them. As other content providers manage to get round this by having a button in settings, or on the controls, they have no excuse.

About time we had a concerted effort to get them to shape up.

Fully agree!! We all need to email and report this repeatedly to the BBC. Their response to my own ticket was to use the browser on my iPhone instead of the app, where you can then select old episodes and AD is included.
The whole implementation of having AudioDescription as a separate category is a nonsense.
Using the Smart TV, the built in app works fine, but its entirely frustrating when my sighted wife finds something for us to view, and then she has to begin the navigation all over again to search for that same episode/program under the Audio Described category.

For any episodes older than the latest not to be played with AD included though is entirely a bug, especially when we all know those episodes do exist with AD from using the other platforms (browser, TV app etc).

And while I'm ranting myself, why have I not heard any AD cinema goers complain about the AD headphones where you have to where them diagonal , half mounted on your head so you can hear the dialogue / film sound track and the occasional AD narrative at the same time?
Its bonkers that the headphones don't allow the AD and film sound track to mix in the headset.

Rant over .... I should raise this as a separate topic although its not really internet/web related.

I’ve just remembered something else, the picker item for moving back and forward in playback doesn’t work all that well either with VO.

Didn’t there used to be a thing on Apple VIS where they picked one app in particular which was problematic and folk were encouraged to write in about it en masse? Perhaps it’s time to resurrect that?

Also sorry to stray off topic, but I know what you mean about the headsets. I did come across one type which had separate controls on each ear where you could select AD alone, AD with the soundtrack, or soundtrack alone and you could also alter the sound levels and I think tone separately. Unfortunately don’t know what the make was. Whenever I have suggested to the blind theatre/cinema goers of Edinburgh that these were a good option, people just complained they would get their hair messed up, as they were a standard over ear format headphone.

I would rather have my hair messed up than use those in-ear ones. Insanitary, or what?

Submitted by Adrienne on Tuesday, September 5, 2017

In reply to by LBM

Recently I've been doing it via Twitter. I note in their latest update they don't give any contact details for comments.

I have always had replies from them, they have just never done anything about it.

Submitted by David on Tuesday, September 5, 2017

On Netflix, for instance, you often find that a season doesn't have AD for all episodes. And sometimes, only one season out of several has AD. There was one new series that appeared under the Audio Description category with 8 episodes, only one of which had AD on it. That was the 3rd episode, which is just taking the mick.

I know that for the BBC IPlayer, new "box sets" can be viewed before they are aired on TV. But as indicated above, only the episodes that have been broadcast have AD on them. It's as if they don't record the AD for each episode until it goes out on air. This is discriminatory, because sighted people can watch the whole set before it's aired if they want.

After a lot of good movement in the entertainment industry regarding AD, it seems as if they are falling back into their old ways of simply treating it as a box to tick, rather than a proper customer service.

both Netflix and ITunes have an issue with their Audio Description category listing in that it only ever shows a fixed number of results, even though there are actually more than that on offer. You just can't find them. For example, if you search for Audio Description films in ITunes, you won't find films like 2001, A Space Odyssey, even though it does actually have AD on it.

Submitted by LBM on Friday, September 8, 2017

A friend of a friend works for the BBC iPlayer department, and was able to supply the following information, which seems to confirm what people's experience has been. Not necessarily what we wanted to hear but at least it came from someone who knows and is going to pass it on.

"So my mate says programmes are added to iPlayer as they TX on the BBC channels. If a programme TX's with AD then it will be available on iPlayer with AD.
When a programme is available on iPlayer with AD it has two video files. One with AD and one without. So when you stream a programme you get to choose AD or no AD and the relevant file is streamed to you. This is why you can't simply toggle AD on or off with iPlayer.
Now for the frustrating part.
The full range of programmes with and without AD and Signer are available on the iPlayer website but for technical reasons they are not all available on the mobile versions of iPlayer. So if you can use iPlayer via Safari or another Browser rather than the mobile app, you should get the AD you're after.
He says he is going to get the developers to look into this but it won't be a quick solution."

Submitted by Usman on Saturday, September 9, 2017

Yes, I definitely agree about the flicking to adjust playback. It's there, but for some reason it simply doesn't work. I don't know if it's just a VO issue or if it's for everyone.

Submitted by BabelBat on Saturday, September 9, 2017

On the Apple TV I can choose between Play and Play Audiodescribed for each episode, so that's my preferred device for the BBC these days. Only problem is that subtitles don't work in the iPlayer on the Apple TV, and my partner needs those.

Submitted by Martin on Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Hi all,

I have been looking for the latest posts about the BBC IPlayer after experiencing problems with AD.

Recently I tried to play episode 5 of The Captured under the AD catagory in the IPlayer app. No AD was played. I now have tried episode 1 of World On Fire. Once again there is no AD.

Are people still having problems with audio description using the IPlayer app?

Also, am I right after reading these comments that AD does work on Apple TV?

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