November 30, 2016 2 years 10 months ago

TV Licence Renewals: Why accessibility still needs work

GATINEAU – Media Access Canada (MAC) lauded the large English-language broadcasters for meeting their accessibility conditions of licence Wednesday morning, but the group added during the broadcasters’ licence renewal hearing that more needs to be done to bridge the last mile of accessibility.

“So, while we support our broadcasters for meeting their conditions of licence, we are also here to ask the Commission to build the policy framework for the last mile of access in Canadian broadcasting – 100% by 2020,” said Carmella Hutchinson of the Disabled Women’s Network in MAC’s opening remarks.

The problem in many cases, particularly for described video (DV), is it’s not known which programs will be DV-enabled and when they will air.

Anthony Tibbs, chair of the board at MAC and acting CEO, noted that Accessibility Media Inc. (AMI) has stepped up and provided a central place where blind and low-visions Canadians can turn to get information on DV programming.

However, even with that service, it’s still difficult to get DV programming information, especially scheduling in advance.

“I feel the same thing that you have to look in several different places to find the content and sometimes you don’t know if it is available until you start watching the program. They might announce it at the beginning but it really is hard to determine and sometimes I stumble on it accidentally. I don’t feel it’s promoted in the same way closed captioning is promoted,” said Kim Kilpatrick of the Canadian Council of the Blind. “And it stems from the misguided thought that blind people don’t actually have an interest to watch TV.”

Stephen Simpson, commissioner for British Columbia and the Yukon, wondered why the production community wasn’t more involved in closed captioning and described video.

According to Analysis and Research in Communications, MAC’s consultants in the proceeding, there’s a simple fix to getting the production community involved earlier in the process.

Haylea Ostafichuk noted that it all rests with the broadcasters. If the broadcasters were to include a simple sentence in their procurement policies and licensing agreements – “deliver a captioned and described master” – it would get done.

“If that’s there, then the producer builds it into their budget and it ripples through be it the CMF (Canada Media Fund) or whatever funding they source in order to produce that program, it’s a line item,” she said.

MAC acknowledges that work to date has almost completed the job of full accessibility. But there are gaps and the association called on the Commission and the broadcasters to fill it by 2020.