This past week, Diane Johnson, CEO and President of Descriptive Video Works, took part in the CRTC (Canadian Radio-Television & Telecommunications Commission – the administrative tribunal that regulates and supervises broadcasting and telecommunications) hearings discussing the future of Canadian television. Dubbed Let’s Talk TV the hearings gave Diane, who was joined by Shawn Marsolais, founder of Blind Beginnings, the chance to make the case regarding the importance of described television.
Following a submission process, Diane and Shawn were among the lucky few to be invited to the discussions pertaining to audio description (other speakers included AMI – Accessible Media Inc.). “Over and over again I am asked why are not more programs described,” Diane said prior to Let’s Talk TV. “I don’t understand why the current mandate is only four hours a week for described video on TV, and 100% for closed captioning. I don’t understand why the blind and partially sighted are denied equal access to information and entertainment”.
During the allotted ten minute session, Diane gave the CRTC a background of her experiences with Descriptive Video Works and the kind of services the company offers, many of which are practices that we have pioneered such as Live Video Description. Also addressed were emerging worldwide trends that show availability of described video increasing, blind audiences becoming harder to ignore and how Canada has the opportunity to be a leader in the field. As a founding member of the Canadian Described Video Broadcast Committee, Diane expressed the importance of Best Practices and how these standards only have value if everyone follows them.
Shawn said to the members of the CRTC panel, “Please imagine not being able to see. We don’t know what our peers are wearing or doing leaving us at a disadvantage socially. It is difficult to make friends when can’t talk about sports, TV programs, fashion, or when you miss the action or joke because it was something visual. DV fills in these gaps”. She went on to say, “Being able to talk knowledgeably with sighted people about these things demonstrates that I am not that different from them, I just can’t see”.
Diane capped off their time speaking with the CRTC by saying, “Both entertainment and information are received via television, lack of access is socially isolating. The blind and partially sighted community deserves the same access to television as enjoyed by all viewers. Descriptive video directly contributes to a higher quality of life. We respectfully request a mandate that requires 100% described video on Canadian television programming”.
Diane and Shawn then answered questions from Stephen Simpson, CRTC Commissioner, British Columbia and Yukon who was particularly interested in Live DV and the associated costs of DV and how these costs may be reduced for broadcasters.
To watch Diane and Shawn’s full presentation to the CRTC as well as how they responded to Commissioner Simpson’s questions, CLICK HERE and jump ahead to 135:00.
It is our hope that the CRTC listens to not just Diane and Shawn’s feedback, but the feedback from the entire blind and partially sighted community across the country, a group of one million plus Canadians that is expected to increase significantly over the coming years as the baby boomers retire. The blind community is tired of being mostly ignored – a fact supported by a complete lack of media coverage during the video description portion of the CRTC hearings. Though Let’s Talk TV is now over, we can all do our part to continue pushing for increased DV. Let’s not let the importance of equality for all be overshadowed by focus on BDUs (Broadcasting Distribution Undertakings), pick ‘n pay contracts and Netflix. Let’s continue to talk TV and ensure that nobody is left out of the discussion.
For a full breakdown of the topics covered by the Let’s Talk TV CRTC hearings, CLICK HERE – Sections 20 and 21 pertain to Described Video and Media Accessibility.
We also encourage you to check out the amazing work being done in the community by Shawn and her team at Blind Beginnings.