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Law / News of Interest to the Disabled Community with respect to Multi-media access

Decision CRTC 2001-457
Ottawa, 2 August 2001

The following is excertpted from the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) website for your convenience. Please visit www.crtc.gc.ca/archive/eng/decisions/2001/db2001-457.htm for the whole document.

jump to the part on service to the hearing impaired
jump to the part on service to the visually impaired

Licence renewals for the television stations controlled by CTV

The Commission renews the licences for the television stations controlled by CTV for a seven year term. The licence renewal applications for these stations were considered at the 17 April 2001 public hearing held in the National Capital Region. A list of conditions of licence common to all stations controlled by CTV is set out in Appendix 2 to this decision.

...

Service to the hearing impaired

61.
In the past, closed captioning requirements for private English-language conventional television stations have differed depending on the level of revenues. At the hearing, the Commission explored with the licensee the possibility of requiring all of its stations, regardless of revenues, to meet requirements for closed captioning by September 2001, and to caption all news programming, not just local news. The Commission notes that, at the hearing, the licensee indicated that it had been successful in selling sponsorships for its closed captioning.

62.
At the hearing, CTV indicated that all of its major stations could meet requirements related to closed captioning by September 2001. It was, however, concerned that such an early implementation could result in problems with respect to the quality of captioning at its smaller stations. CTV therefore suggested that smaller stations be obligated to reach the required levels by September 2003. The licensee agreed that captioning requirements should apply to all news programming that is broadcast.

63.
After discussion at the hearing, and in light of commitments made by the applicant, the Commission has decided that it is reasonable to require all of CTV's stations, regardless of revenues, to caption 90% of all programming that they broadcast, including all news (category 1) programming. The Commission is imposing these requirements as a condition of licence for each of the CTV stations being renewed today, except stations affiliated to the CBC. The imposition of a condition of licence emphasizes the importance that the Commission places on commitments with respect to closed captioning and does not reflect any concerns with CTV's performance in meeting previous requirements. The Commission reminds the licensee that closed captioning obligations include live feeds.

64.
For all stations earning $10 million or more in annual advertising revenues and network payments, the condition of licence will be effective on 1 September 2001, the beginning of the new licence term. For CTV stations earning less than $10 million in annual advertising revenues and network payments, the condition of licence will come into effect starting 1 September 2003. The Commission considers that some short-term flexibility for smaller stations is appropriate.

65.
In the case of CBC-affiliated stations, the Commission recognizes that, other than local programming, most of the schedule of these stations is provided by the CBC. The Commission notes that Decision CRTC 2000-1 requires the CBC to ensure that at least 90% of the programming distributed nationally is closed captioned in each year of the licence term. Consistent with the approach adopted for the CBC, the Commission therefore expects CBC-affiliated stations owned by CTV to provide captioning of at least 90% of all programming, including 100% of all news.

66.
The Commission notes that the 90% obligation is based on the recognition that requiring 100% captioning at all times may not be reasonable or appropriate. Thus, the obligation is designed to provide some flexibility to cover unforeseen circumstances (such as late delivery of captions, technical malfunctions, or the lack of availability of captions for programs acquired outside North America), or programming where captioning may not be feasible, such as third language programming.

67.
The Commission further expects CTV to focus on improving the quality, reliability and accuracy of captioning on each of its stations, and to work with representatives of the deaf and hard of hearing community to ensure that its captioning continues to meet their needs at a consistent high quality level.

Service to the visually impaired

68.
"Audio description" and "video description" or "described video" are methods of improving the service that television broadcasters provide to the visually impaired. Audio description involves the provision of basic voice-overs of textual or graphic information displayed on the screen. A broadcaster providing audio description will, for example, not simply display sports scores on the screen, but also read them aloud so that the visually impaired can receive the information.

69.
Video description, or described video as it is also known, consists of narrative descriptions of a program's key visual elements so that people who are visually impaired are able to form a mental picture of what is occurring on the screen. These descriptions can be provided on the Secondary Audio Programming (SAP) channel. Not all broadcasters are currently equipped to deliver a SAP signal. Thus, the introduction of descriptive video via the SAP channel requires significant capital expenditures to upgrade a licensee's transmission facilities.

Audio description

70.
CTV indicated that it is committed to its general practice of providing audio description of important graphic information. It conveys all emergency information, such as weather warnings, in audio form as well as in video form. The Commission notes this commitment, and expects CTV to ensure that it provides audio description where appropriate. It further expects the licensee to take the necessary steps to ensure that its service responds to the needs of visually impaired audiences.

Described video

71.
At the hearing, CTV made a significant commitment to roll out descriptive video programming. CTV originally proposed a seven-year plan for upgrading the technical facilities of all of its stations so that they could transmit described video. Roll out would begin in the largest markets, and other markets would be upgraded over the licence term. At the reply stage of the hearing, however, CTV committed to an accelerated schedule, making a commitment that it would complete the process by the end of the second year of the licence term.

72.
CTV also committed to a ramp up of the amount of described programming. As they are upgraded, stations will provide two hours a week of described Canadian priority programming within the first two years of the licence term. This minimum level will increase to three hours per week in the third year, and to four hours per week in year five. At least 50% of the described video programming aired each week will be original, with the remainder consisting of program repeats. The Commission commends CTV on this significant commitment.

73.
The National Broadcast Reading Service (NBRS) recommended that obligations with respect to described video relate to all categories of priority programming. The Commission notes, however, that some types of programming lend themselves more readily to video description. These types of programming are drama, long-form documentaries and children's programming. The Commission considers that requirements related to described video should apply, first and foremost, to these types of programs, aired during peak viewing time.

74.
In light of the above, the Commission is imposing a condition of licence on each CTV station relating to the provision of described video. The condition requires CTV's largest stations (in Toronto, Ottawa and Vancouver) to broadcast, between 7:00 p.m. and 11 p.m., an average of two hours per week of described video programming during the first two years of the licence term. All of CTV's stations are required to provide three hours per week in year three, and four hours per week in year five. A minimum of 50% of the hours must be original broadcasts. This programming must be Canadian and be from categories 2 (b) and 7. The licensee may, however, count toward fulfilment of this condition a maximum of one hour per week of described video programming that is directed to children and broadcast during an appropriate children's viewing time.

75.
The Commission further expects CTV, wherever possible, to acquire and exhibit described versions of the Canadian and non-Canadian programming that its stations broadcast. It notes that some American programs already include descriptions in order to fulfil requirements in this area that are in effect in the United States. Finally, the Commission commends the licensee for making concrete proposals with respect to the broadcast of programming that includes described video. The Commission considers that the presence of such programming in the Canadian broadcasting system is an important contribution.

The previous was excertpted from the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) website for your convenience. Please visit www.crtc.gc.ca/archive/eng/decisions/2001/db2001-457.htm for the whole document.

 


 

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