Joe Clark: Media access

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Updated 2001.10.13


Keeping tabs on Canada’s incompetent audio describers

I have previously described “the monopoly provider of audio description here, an outfit called AudioVision Canada” and its “manifestly inferior work.” I’ve detailed just how this is true on the Media Access mailing list and elsewhere.

This page will be home to ongoing reviews of AudioVision Canada’s inept work.

Available reviews

The following reviews have been completed. I’m working on others as fast as I can get the tapes. (If I had the money, I’d buy the whole library and review it.) Newest additions first.

  1. The Last Days of Disco
  2. The Hunchback
  3. The Arrow
  4. Anne of Green Gables

What’s wrong

AudioVision Canada fails in its putative goal of making television and film accessible to blind and visually-impaired viewers. AudioVision ignores even the most fundamental principles of audio description (“Describe what you see”; “Don’t editorialize”), condescends to its audience, produces work with poor picture and sound quality, and does a whole lot of patting itself on the back for being a totally shit-hot player in the field of Canadian accessibility.

(Oh, but don’t take my word for it. What did Bob Trimbee of AudioVision tell the CRTC, presumably with a straight face? “Without being boastful... we think our product is probably the best there is on the market today.” He’s right: It isn’t a boast. Because it isn’t true.)

It’s only going to get worse

So far, AudioVision Canada is the only supplier of audio description in Canada. It will be the beneficiary of a $2 million bribe paid by BCE in its takeover of CTV, a funding injection that will ostensibly give AudioVision’s parent, the National Broadcast Reading Service, some stability. (Furthermore, many new CTV programs will be described. See also the section on CTV license renewals.)

Canadians are good at a lot of things, but accessible media isn’t one of them. In the ’80s, we blew it with captioning, devising styles and techniques that were merely different from what the Americans were doing but not better (in fact, in all ways worse). The earliest captioning “agency” was established with government funds. Now that public-sector spending is passé, we have exactly the same thing happening, the sole difference being the source of the start-up cash – in this case, a multi-billion-dollar conglomerate.

Despite receiving training by the inventors of audio description as we know it, Cody and Margaret Pfanstiehl, and by the Descriptive Video Service at WGBH (seasoned, reliable practitioners of this new form of accessibility), AudioVision’s work stinks.

See also

In an attempt to get some kind of standards going in audio description, I posted the document Standard Techniques in Audio Description.