Joe Clark: Accessibility | Design | Writing

Background: CBC captioning errors and omissions

CBC is Canada’s national public broadcaster. A human-rights case settled in 2002, Vlug v. CBC, required two of CBC’s English-language TV networks, CBC Television (the main network) and Newsworld (an all-news channel), to caption 100% of their programming save for “glitches.” That included not only shows, but intros, extros, bumpers, and promos for upcoming shows. Only outside commercials did not have to be captioned.

I kept notes from normal viewing of CBC Television and Newsworld from November 2002, when 100% captioning was to be implemented, to November 2005, when I submitted evidence that CBC was not, in fact, captioning 100% of its programming save for “glitches.” In fact, CBC decided that some categories of programming simply wouldn’t be captioned. And I found extensive evidence of incorrect or improper captioning.

Press release and data

On 2005.11.15, I posted a press release and data set from my research, as follows:

New study shows CBC failing deaf TV viewers

Three-year study documents over 100 cases of missing or inadequate captioning for deaf viewers on CBC Television and Newsworld

CBC not meeting a 100%-captioning requirement that was reached through a human-rights settlement with a deaf viewer, study shows

Information gathered over a three-year period show that CBC Television and Newsworld are not providing 100% captioning, as they were required to do in a human-rights settlement in 2002.

The press release and data were covered in the blogosphere (examples; Zerbisias; CBC Watch), with the usual ad hominem remarks. Predictably, the mainstream press ignored it (even industry publications like Playback).

CBC replies

CBC eventually replied to my submission, and the Canadian Human Rights Commission eventually deigned to send me their replies (in cockeyed faxes – I had to ask repeatedly for electronic versions). The CBC sent me two letters, reproduced here:

  1. First letter from CBC (2005.12.08)
  2. Second letter from CBC (2006.01.20)

CBC conceded, or could not disprove, all of my points. In CBC’s signature antagonistic and feudalistic style, it did, however, “disagree strenuously” (in a separate E-mail) with my contentions and “dispute” a claim I made “most vehemently.”

My response

On 2006.05.04, I submitted my own response to these letters. At a mere 12,900 words, complete with references from the scientific and academic literature and hyperlinks, my response is substantially more comprehensive than CBC’s blandishments.

But that’s not all

CBC has been typically dismissive and has refused repeated requests to meet to discuss captioning (even after promising as far back as 2002 to do so). The CBC is again reminded that I will meet at any reasonable time and place.

The Canadian Human Rights Commission has gone to some lengths to attempt to derail the entire investigation.

Nonetheless, my facts and interpretation are correct. CBC not only was not living up to its 100%-captioning requirement, it still isn’t. In fact, I have amassed a list of uncaptioned or incorrectly- or improperly-captioned programming that aired after I submitted my intervention. (I added that data to my response.)

Ongoing coverage

I’m updating my list of CBC captioning errors and omissions at least once a month – and you can subscribe via RSS.

French-language captioning

Senator Jean-Robert Gauthier filed a complaint concerning captioning on Radio-Canada and Réseau de l’information. Radio-Canada submitted a report on the topic, which I have methodically dissected.

Updated: 2006.08.03

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