Audio Description Services

Want to know what audio described programming is available? See our Audio Described Programming schedule for SBS and SBS VICELAND channels. 

Audio description (AD) is the auditory narration of the non-verbal elements of a program. During gaps in dialogue, it describes visual elements such as scenes, settings, actions and costumes. It is particularly beneficial to people who are blind and vision-impaired.  

SBS launched a trial of AD on selected programming on SBS and SBS VICELAND on 5 April 2020, and is launching a more comprehensive service, taking into consideration feedback from audiences, from 28 June 2020.

SBS is continuing to seek feedback from audiences to help inform how it delivers this service. Please email or phone 1800 500 727 (during business hours).

FAQs about audio description on SBS

What is audio description?

Audio description (AD) is the auditory narration of the non-verbal elements of a program. During gaps in dialogue, it describes visual elements such as scenes, settings, actions and costumes. It is particularly beneficial to people who are blind and vision-impaired.

On which SBS channels does SBS provide audio description?

Audio description is available on selected programming on SBS (SD and HD) and SBS VICELAND. 

What programs will have audio description?

Audio description is most appropriate for dramas, documentaries and movies, which have sufficient gaps in dialogue for the insertion of audio description.

The programs being provided with audio description are listed in the Audio Described Programming schedule and will be updated with any schedule changes. 

SBS is also providing details to a number of organisations representing the blind and vision-impaired community to communicate with their members. 

Are you going to introduce audio description for the news?

News, as a genre, is not suitable for the addition of audio description, as there are insufficient gaps in spoken elements of the program. Similarly, current affairs and sport programming will not include audio description.

Is audio description available on SBS On Demand?

Audio description is not currently available on SBS On Demand.

How many hours will SBS broadcast each week, and when?  

To the greatest extent possible SBS will schedule regular slots each week that have audio description. From 28 June 2020, SBS will broadcast an average of 14 hours of audio described programming across SBS and SBS VICELAND every week.

How to enable and access audio description 

How can I set up audio description on my TV?

Audiences can enable audio description for SBS and SBS VICELAND on their television or set top box by updating their audio language settings. These settings can be changed by selecting AUS (Australian) or ‘Unknown’ instead of ENG (English) as the secondary audio language setting, by using your TV’s remote control and on-screen menu options.

Remote control buttons and menu selections vary by television brand and model. Please check your device manual for further information regarding your equipment. SBS has also provided instructions for a number of key models. Download instructions on how to set up audio description in either PDF format or Microsoft Word format.

Please be aware that for some TVs and set top boxes, the setting change to turn on audio description may not persist after the device is switched off, or if the channel is changed from SBS or SBS VICELAND. You may be required to update your settings again if you experience this problem.

Why doesn’t it work when I set ‘audio description’ to ‘on’?

Some devices have a setting for ‘audio description’ however if you have set this to ‘on’ and you are not hearing the audio description track, you may try updating your audio language settings as noted above.  Audio language settings generally appear in a device’s ‘secondary language’ menu. Switching this secondary language to ‘AUS’ or ‘Unknown’ should enable you to hear the SBS audio description track. 

How do I know if my TV can receive audio description?

Most televisions and set top boxes should be able to decode secondary audio. You can check the manual of your device or search the on-screen settings menu on the device itself to determine whether it supports selection of an additional audio language. Alternatively, you can contact the retailer or manufacturer of your device.  

What options do I have if my TV cannot receive audio description?

Some older devices (manufactured before 2014) may not support selection of a second audio language. A set top box capable of receiving audio description may be required to connect to your existing TV.

How do I turn off audio description?

Please refer to the instructions above for changing the 'language' section on your television. 

Why can’t I access SBS VICELAND?

SBS VICELAND is only provided as an HD channel. If you can’t access SBS VICELAND, you may need to retune your device. If after retuning you are still unable to access SBS VICELAND, your TV or set top box may not be MPEG 4 compatible and a more recent device may be required which supports both MPEG-4 and secondary audio.

How do I record an SBS program with audio description and watch it later?

Personal Video Recorders (PVRs) may be able to record AD programming, however SBS has not been in a position to carry out testing on this. SBS welcomes feedback on models of PVR which can record AD to assist in informing audiences.

Can I receive audio description on Foxtel, VAST or Fetch?

AD is not available on these services at this time due to technology constraints. We are in the process of further development.

How will I know when the program with audio description is starting?

From 28 June 2020, an audio chime will sound alerting audiences to audio description being provided for a program about to be broadcast. There will also be an on-screen notification indicating a program is audio described.  

The programs being provided with audio description are listed on SBS's Audio Described Programming schedule. This page is regularly updated, including with any schedule changes. 

The SBS Guide, and the electronic program guide available on individual devices (EPG) will also indicate when a scheduled program has audio description available. 

Will the voice be Australian or have an accent, and will the voice be machine-recorded?

The voices providing audio description will be mixed between Australian accents and international accents. SBS will generally be providing human-voiced audio description. In some instances, SBS may acquire programs with synthetic-voiced (machine) audio description. We welcome feedback on audience preferences.

Help and Feedback

How can I get more help or provide feedback?  

If you would like assistance in activating audio description, or want to provide some feedback about the service, you can contact SBS.

If you are experiencing difficulties in enabling audio description, you can email a photo of the menu options available on your device which may help us to assist you.


Phone: 1800 500 727 (business hours)