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Ottawa, 29 November 2011

Susan Wheeler
Chair, Described Video Working Group
Vice President, Regulatory – Media
Rogers Communications Inc.
333 Bloor Street East
Toronto, ON  M4W 1G9

Email: susan.wheeler@rci.rogers.com

Re: CRTC Broadcasting and Telecom Regulatory Policy 2009-430 Accessibility of telecommunications and broadcasting services – Described Video Working Group

Dear Ms. Wheeler:

This letter is in response to the Described Video Working Group (DV WG) Final Report dated 30 September 2011.

The Commission commends the DV WG for the time, energy and resources that have clearly been devoted to developing common practices and solutions for improving the accessibility and promotion of described programming.

With one exception, the Commission is satisfied that the concrete measures and firm commitments proposed by the DV WG, once implemented, will enable it to fulfill its mandate, which consists of:

1. facilitating the pass-through of described programming;

2. providing one or more simple means for viewers to access embedded described video;

3. resolving any instances of audio loss associated with described video; and

4. ensuring that information regarding described programming is made available in print and online programming listings and electronic programming guides.

The Commission is particularly pleased with the measures proposed by the DV WG with respect to the 4th mandate element. The provision of accurate information online, by telephone and in electronic programs guides regarding the availability of described programming will enable people who are blind or partially sighted to plan their viewing of described programming.  In addition to other promotional measures, the commitment to produce and air public service announcements (PSAs) will significantly increase general awareness of DV.  To maximize the impact of the PSAs, the Commission encourages all licensees to ensure they are broadcast during peak viewing times.

The Commission is also satisfied that the initiatives and commitments of the DV WG to facilitate the pass-through of described programming and to resolve any associated instances of audio loss will result in the consistent provision of described programming to Canadians.  To facilitate the fulfillment of these elements of the DV WG’s mandate, the Commission will maintain on its website a list of programming services that offer DV, as provided by the DV WG and updated by the DV WG from time to time.

However, the Commission is of the view that the DV WG has not, to the fullest extent possible, leveraged all of the available opportunities to provide one or more simple means to access embedded DV, and considers that the DV WG has put forward too limited a vision and framework in this respect.   The Commission appreciates the need to identify shorter and longer term activities and commitments and notes that the provision of “set-and-forget” functionality[1] has been identified as a longer term objective.  However, as noted in the report, “set-and-forget” functionality is currently available from some Canadian-based broadcasting distribution undertakings (BDUs).  The Commission also notes that a customized, Canadian-based, remote control with a one-button solution for accessing DV has already been demonstrated by a Canadian BDU[2], and considers that a similar approach could be taken by other BDUs. Given that the necessary technology appears to be available, the Commission expects the DV WG to actively investigate and pursue one-button solutions and “set-and-forget” in the shorter-term and that the DV WG and the industry should be able to report on the progress in this regard in the shorter-term.

In light of the work that remains for some BDUs to provide Canadians with simple means of accessing described programming, the Commission considers that improved consumer awareness of the available options for accessing DV will ensure that people who are blind or partially sighted are able to access DV programming more effectively.  To this end, the Commission requests that the DV WG produce the following information:

  • For each BDU, the number of steps currently needed to access DV programming
  • For each BDU, the availability of “set-and forget” functionality with respect to the user’s preference for described programming.

The Commission further requests that the DV WG make this information available in an easily searchable, tabular format, on a central website that is accessible to people who are blind and people who are partially sighted and that this information be updated as access to DV is improved.  The Commission expects that the creation and publishing of such a website can and should be accomplished by January 2012.

The Commission supports the recommendation to extend the mandate of the DV WG, thus ensuring that the momentum of the DV WG may continue.

The Commission requests that the DV WG report on its progress in addressing the Commission’s comments and concerns detailed in the body of this letter, as well as report on the status of the other initiatives described in the report, by 31st May 2012.  The Commission further requests that DV WG provide an interim progress report on its achievement of those initiatives targeted for a 30 November 2011 completion date and the above mentioned central website, by 31st January 2012.

The Commission once again commends the DV WG for the progress that it has been made and looks forward to hearing about its future activities and the resulting advancements.

Sincerely,

ORIGINAL SIGNED BY Christianne Laizner on behalf of /

John Traversy
Secretary General

[1]“Set-and-forget” functionality retains the user’s preference for DV and automatically makes it available for any described programming.

[2] During the proceeding that lead to the Broadcasting and Telecom Regulatory Policy CRTC 2009-430, Accessibility of telecommunications and broadcasting services, Rogers Communications Inc. presented a customized remote control unit that enables one-button access to described programming.