A coalition of Canadian disability organisations is claiming a historic victory this month after the country’s broadcasting regulator backed their call for an independent trust fund working to ensure 100% accessibility of all digital broadcasting platforms by 2020. Its work programme will be designed to focus on “innovation that provides platform-neutral solutions to ensure accessibility of all broadcasting content.”
The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) has included establishment of the Broadcasting Accessibility Fund among conditions attached to its approval of the takeover of Canada’s largest TV network, CTV, by BCE ( www.bce.ca/en ), owner of communications company Bell.
The proposal had initially been put forward by the Access 2020 Coalition ( www.mediac.ca/proj-Access2020.asp ),
an umbrella group led by the non-profit body Media Access Canada (see February issue:
The sum of money BCE will be required to put forward to establish the fund, at 5.7 million Canadian Dollars, is less than half the 13 million Dollars originally requested by Access 2020. However the commission accepted the disability organisations’ call for the fund to be largely independent of the broadcasting industry and overseen by the access community. In its ruling (
the commission said that at least two-thirds of board members of the fund must be “persons with disabilities, representatives of disability organizations and/or other parties with relevant expertise in developing or implementing accessibility solutions.”
The fund will also be empowered to raise further funding from other sources, such as annual contributions by other broadcasters or broadcasting distributors.
“We are really making history here,” Beverley Milligan, CEO of Media Access Canada, told E-Access Bulletin. “At last those who depend on accessibility are being entrusted with the means of making it happen. The CRTC ruling is clear, the broadcasters are to play a part but this fund is to be run by the accessibility community. We have always had the will but now we also have the means.
“This latest ruling by the CRTC makes them the first regulator in the world to take an alternative approach to ensuring 100% accessible content by 2020. They have empowered us to bring it about and now it is time for us to get down to work.”
BCE now has until 6 May to submit detailed plans for the fund back to the commission.