Audio description (AD) is an additional narration track provided alongside some audio-visual media services. The narration articulates what is happening on-screen for the benefit of blind and partially sighted audience members; for example, describing the movements and body language of characters in a drama.  

AD is available only on some broadcast editorial content via digital television and it has been rare for broadcast and non-broadcast advertising to be audio described. However CAP and BCAP understand that it is now becoming more common in advertising, particularly in broadcast media, and wish to clarify its regulatory status.  

The CAP and BCAP Codes apply to all aspects of advertisements within their remit. This includes AD or any additional content provided to improve accessibility; including signing and subtitling.  

This does not mean that advertisers must audio describe their ads nor, when they do, that they need to describe all of the visual elements. However, when AD is added, blind and partially sighted viewers, and the ASA Council, might reasonably consider that the AD should include any essential visual elements, for example, on-screen text which qualifies spoken claims.  For this reason not all ads may lend themselves to audio description, such as those which include large amounts of mandatory or qualifying on-screen text.

Where the ASA receives a complaint specifically about an ad with AD from or on behalf of a blind or partially sighted audience member it may well assess only the AD and other audio elements, and not the visuals, against the Code.   These elements, taken on their own merits, should therefore not mislead, harm or offend. 

Advertisers are advised to discuss the addition of audio description to broadcast advertising with Clearcast and to non-broadcast advertising with CAP’s Copy Advice team.


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