Update: The CRTC announced that the deadline has been extended to Tuesday, May 21, 2019 at 8 p.m. (ET) to submit an intervention in opposition to Bell, Corus and Rogers' petition to be exempt from providing described video during prime time. You can file an intervention online here.
For 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. Described video lets Canadians who are blind or partially sighted experience film and television in a comparable way and fully participate in society.
The Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) mandated in 2015 that by September 1, 2019, certain Canadian broadcasters are to provide four hours of described video per day during prime time (7 p.m. to 11 p.m.). Programming that is not well suited for described video, including newscasts and sports, are exempt from these requirements.
Now, months before this requirement was to take place, the CRTC has received an amendment proposed by Bell Media Inc., Corus Entertainment Inc., and Rogers Media Inc. to their condition of license that would exempt them from providing described video to non-Canadian programs received less than 72 hours prior to broadcast without described video. This has been a clear expectation as the Commission gradually moves towards 100 percent described video. CNIB hopes to see this goal realized in a timely manner with leadership from the CRTC.
Additionally, TVA, a Quebec-based broadcasting company, has asked the Commission to relax their conditions of license even further. Such a change to TVA's conditions of license would further prolong the availability of described video for French and English language television programming.
The broadcasters that are petitioning the Commission to relax their conditions of license have stated that they regularly receive programming without described video from American producers, often the same day as programs are to be aired. According to the submissions made by the parties and various suppliers, all of which are on file with the Commission, this is a standard business practice given the dynamic and fluid nature of first run television programming.
CNIB has reached out to Canadian producers of described video and learned that news magazines, such as W5, regularly produce described video on short notice before going to air. Following multiple decisions by the CRTC to provide more accessible broadcasting services, Canadian broadcasters should be working to find solutions instead of petitioning the Commission to amend their conditions of license in the final months.
The CRTC is inviting Canadians to share their views on whether the conditions of license for Bell Media Inc., Corus Entertainment Inc., and Rogers Media Inc. should be amended. If their application is successful, some prime-time programming will continue to be delivered without described video.
CNIB reminds the Commission that described video brings Canadians who are blind or partially sighted into the conversation on culture. At only 28 hours per week, CNIB believes there is still much room for improvement. Four hours of described video during prime-time hours is already insufficient and relaxing the conditions of described video further takes away from accessible broadcasts.
How can you help?
Add your voice to the conversation by submitting your own intervention with the CRTC. You can file an intervention online here and your comments will be part of the public record on this important conversation.
Need help with some points for your intervention? You can read the entire Notice of Consultation here, or use the following points as a guide:
- For Canadians who are blind or partially sighted, described video is not merely a means to access entertainment. It is a way to level the societal playing field and bring everyone into conversations about popular culture.
- Even at only 28 hours a week, there is still much room for improvement. Four hours of described video during prime-time hours is already insufficient – allowing broadcasters to take away minimal accessibility requirements is simply wrong.
- For the 1.5 million Canadians who are blind or partially sighted, the benefits of additional hours of described video programming will exceed the relatively low costs.
- If procurement policies do not specifically require described video upon delivery, then it is unreasonable for Canadian broadcasters to expect acquired programming to contain described video.
- Canadian broadcasters have known since 2015 that 28 hours per week of described video would be required by 2019. It is unclear what the broadcasters have been doing since the "Let's Talk TV" decision in 2016 to work with American television producers to meet this goal.
What is described video?
Described Video is the narrated description of a program's non-verbal elements that may include surroundings, costumes, and body language. The description is added during pauses in dialogue and enables audiences who are blind to form a mental picture of what is happening in the program or on stage. First introduced more than 25 years ago, described video provides persons who are blind with access to both digital and live entertainment. View an example of described video here.