Joe Clark: Accessibility | Design | Writing

Appeal to Canadian government concerning 100% captioning

On 2006.05.18, the CRTC, the Canadian broadcast regulator, awarded a licence to Allarco Entertainment Inc. to operate a new English-language pay-TV movie network. I had intervened in that licence process and stated that Canada didn’t need a new English movie station, that whoever won the licence should be forced to caption 100% of its programming (including interstitials); provide audio description of a significant portion of programming; and support my research project.

I had previously written to all applicants stating that I didn’t see a need for the network in the first place and didn’t care who got the licence. I did, however, want all the applicants to commit to funding my project if they got the licence. The only response I got was a nonresponse from a “consultant” in the employ of Allarco, Nic Wry, who errantly top-posted an E-mail about me to me. Wry wrote: “[W]e should talk about this guy. He made a huge fuss at the CHUM–Craig media takeover.” And that was the end of that.

Allarco was given a licence with a requirement for 90% captioning in all years and no audio description at all in the first year. In subsequent years, Allarco must provide at least two hours a week of description, rising to four hours a week in Year 6. Since the captioning requirement applies only to the broadcast day, which does not include overnight periods, 90% captioning is really more like 72% captioning. Neither 90% nor 72% captioning amounts to full legal access to the television network. Running one, two, or three described movies a week doesn’t amount to equal access, either.

Once the licence was awarded, I made use of a provision of the Broadcasting Act and appealed the licence decision to the federal cabinet, i.e., the sitting government, i.e., the Conservatives. I filed the appeal on 2006.07.02 and a decision was published by the government on 2006.08.02. Naturally, the government refused the appeal. (And nobody, at all, in the entire government infrastructure informed me of the publication of the decision or provided me with a copy of it.)

What does this mean?

Available documents

It appears the only way to achieve 100% captioning in this country is to file a human-rights complaint. There is no known method to ensure a significant quantity of audio description. The government, in the form of the CRTC and the cabinet, refuses to comply with the Canadian Human Rights Act and the Charter and force broadcasters to make all of their programming accessible to deaf people, or even to make a large proportion of it accessible to the blind.

Press coverage

The appeal and its decision were almost completely ignored, except for an article in the 2006.08.15 issue of Decima’s Canadian Communications Reports, which stated:

Allarco president Malcom Knox says Allarco has taken the opportunity afforded by Clark’s request to fine-tune its plans before the channel launches in the spring next year. “The appeal slowed us down, because we took it very seriously, but now that that’s behind us we’re moving forward.”

I later wrote Knox and explained that there was no evidence Allarco took seriously me, captioning, description, or anything related to those, and ample evidence that Allarco considered me nothing but a nuisance.

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Appeal to Canadian government concerning 100% captioning

Posted: 2006.10.01 ¶ Updated 2006.10.02

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