VoicePrint is the monopoly nationwide Canadian English-language “radio” reading service, although it is not distributed on radio in most places. (Check their high-quality site.) VoicePrint reads out loud a selection of print articles for blind and other “print-disabled” people, and if you subscribe to cable TV, you pay up to 4¢ a month for it.

VoicePrint is an operation of the National Broadcast Reading Service (NBRS), which also runs AudioVision Canada, purveyor of often or typically atrocious audio description. Tidy little conglomerate there, don’t you think?

They’ve got some original programming, including an interview show entitled Contact, which, on February 26, interviewed “media consultant” Eric Rothschild (cached bio). He works for the conglomerate and was declared as such. Again, very tidy to interview one’s own consultant on one’s own monopoly programming service. You can listen to the interview via a 4.8 MB MP3.

Let me offer some corrections for the record.

ROTHSCHILD (at 5:02): Within that [Broadcasting] Act, there is a specific reference to the fact that the broadcasting system should be accessible to those with disabilities as technology becomes available to make that possible.

No, the Broadcasting Act states, at §3(1)(p), that “programming accessible by disabled persons should be provided within the Canadian broadcasting system as resources become available for the purpose.” It talks about “resources,” i.e., money, not technology, otherwise accessibility would have to be provided by law whenever somebody invented a new box or a new piece of software.

ROTHSCHILD (at 8:17): In the late 1990s, it cost about $5,000 an hour – $5,000 to produce an hour of described programming.

HOST: Wow!

ROTHSCHILD: Today, that can be – you can get an hour of described programming for as little as about $1,500. And, you know, that evolution happened, again, in great measure as a result of the efforts of this organization.

Of course, that’s ridiculous, but it makes it sound as though AudioVision Canada responsibly led the way in reducing costs. In fact, AudioVision Canada was the CRTC-endorsed monopoly provider of audio description in Canada for years. It took the appearance of Galaviz & Hauber and other competitors to force AudioVision to reel in its policy of overcharging. AudioVision had to drop its prices because other companies were doing the same work for less. It’s called capitalism.

I wonder if it is proper for nonprofit charitable organizations supported by mandatory subscriber levies to compete with the private sector. (I’ve been to the three companies’ shared offices, located, coach-house-style, in a collection of sheds on the same block as the second-worst captioner in Canada. Do you really think that every aspect of the companies’ financial and operational arrangements is separate? I don’t. Your 4¢ a month is indirectly subsidizing AudioVision Canada.)

ROTHSCHILD (at 13:00): We’ve actually created jobs for people to be in the description business. And, as I say, virtually every television station is required to do some described programming today.

They may have created a job or two in their offices, but they didn’t create the competitors’ jobs, and the vast majority of broadcasters in Canada don’t have to produce a single second of audio description.

ROTHSCHILD (at 26:00): I just think we should feel happy to live in Canada where the legislation that governs broadcasting is enlightened enough years ago to have recognized that the system should be accessible to those with disabilities and all persons…. We have terrific legislation, enlightened legislation, and we have a very effective broadcast regulator in the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission… I think we have much to be proud [of].

If we have such “terrific,” “enlightened” legislation, why does it not require full accessibility? Why does the “very effective” regulator limit audio-description requirements to four hours a week (half of which can be repeats), and only on some channels? (And that says nothing about captioning, or about quality of either captioning or description.)

If this is terrific and effective, what would a deplorable and impotent system look like? (How might we tell them apart?)

Rothschild is not a concise speaker, but that could be nerves at work. He certainly seems to be making an effort to sound like a heck of a guy, which, for all I know, he is. And because this business seems to run on perceived attitude rather than competence, I’m sure that helped him get the gig. In fact, just this posting alone has given you an impression about my attitude, right?

In the 28-minute interview, Rothschild found a way to utter the terms “National Broadcast Reading Service,” “NBRS,” “AudioVision Canada,” or “VoicePrint” 24 times, often in combination within the same sentence.

The foregoing posting appeared on Joe Clark’s personal Weblog on 2006.03.28 13:33. This presentation was designed for printing and omits components that make sense only onscreen. (If you are seeing this on a screen, then the page stylesheet was not loaded or not loaded properly.) The permanent link is:

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