Canadians who are blind were looking forward to described video for all shows during prime-time hours starting in September 2019, as mandated by the Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC).
But now three Canadian broadcasters – Bell Media Inc., Corus Entertainment Inc. and Rogers Media Inc. – have petitioned the CRTC to exempt them from providing described video to non-Canadian programs received less than 72 hours prior to broadcast without described video. TVA, a Quebec based broadcasting company, has asked the CRTC to relax their conditions of license even further. Such a change to TVA's conditions of license would further delay the availability of described video for French and English language television programming.
In 2015, the CRTC announced plans to increase the availability of described video and mandated that certain Canadian broadcasters provide four hours of described video per day during prime time (7 to 11 p.m.) by September 2019.
"Canadian broadcasters should have been working to find solutions instead of petitioning the commission to amend their conditions of license in the final months," says CNIB's President and CEO John Rafferty. "If Canadian broadcasters do not specify in their procurement policies that they require described video upon delivery of programming from the United States, then it is unreasonable for Canadian broadcasters to expect acquired programming to contain described video.”
“Requiring more video-described programming in Canada will also increase the availability of this programming in the United States, since television producers here will need to include description to comply with the Canadian mandate,” says Mark Riccobono, President of the National Federation of the Blind (NFB). “As the oldest and largest organization of blind people in the United States, the National Federation of the Blind is pleased to be a partner in this effort in order to bring the authentic voice of the blind of the United States to the conversation, to ensure that the use of description is properly prioritized in the broadcast industry, and to advance the art of using description to enhance the information and entertainment provided to all blind people in North America.”
For the 1.5 million Canadians who are blind or partially sighted, described video is not just a way to access entertainment. It levels the societal playing field by allowing everyone to enjoy popular culture and participate in “water cooler” conversations of the day instead of being excluded due to content not being described.
“With only four hours of described video content per day, there is still much room for improvement” says Mr. Rafferty. “Four hours of described video during prime-time hours is already insufficient and relaxing the conditions of described video further removes people with sight loss from accessible broadcasts.”
Canadians who are blind or partially sighted pay the same subscription rates as other Canadians and as such are entitled to a viewing experience that meets their accessibility needs. Similar accommodations have been made for audience members who are deaf or hard of hearing. One hundred percent of all Canadian content must include closed captioning.
The CNIB Foundation is urging Canadians to share their views with the CRTC on whether the conditions of licence for Bell Media Inc., Corus Entertainment Inc. and Rogers Media Inc. should be amended.
About CNIB Foundation
CNIB is a non-profit organization driven to change what it is to be blind today. We deliver innovative programs and powerful advocacy that empower people impacted by blindness to live their dreams while tearing down barriers to inclusion. Our work is powered by a network of volunteers, donors and partners from coast to coast to coast. To learn more or get involved, visit cnib.ca.
About the National Federation of the Blind
The National Federation of the Blind (NFB), headquartered in Baltimore, is the oldest and largest organization of blind people in the United States. Founded in 1940, the NFB consists of affiliates, chapters, and divisions in the fifty states, Washington DC, and Puerto Rico. The NFB defends the rights of blind people of all ages and provides information and support to families with blind children, older Americans who are losing vision, and more. We believe in the hopes and dreams of blind people and work together to transform them into reality. Learn more about our many programs and initiatives at nfb.org.
CNIB is urging Canadians to support access to described video, after three broadcasters petitioned the CRTC for exemption.
The CRTC has mandated that certain Canadian broadcasters provide four hours of described video per day during prime time (7 to 11 p.m.) by September 2019.
To share your views with the CRTC on whether the conditions of licence for Bell Media Inc., Corus Entertainment Inc. and Rogers Media Inc. should be amended before the May 16th deadline, visit cnib.ca/dv.
902-453-1480 ext. 5709
National Federation of the Blind