Canadians with Disabilities Ignored in Shaw Takeover of Canwest TV, Group Says

DAILY NEWS
Aug 26, 2010 12:39 PM –

Organizations and individuals who advocate and serve on behalf of Canadians with disabilities are sharply critical of the planned acquisition of Canwest
Global by Shaw Communications.

The group questions Shaw’s failure to address accessibility needs in its $2 billion takeover of what it’s calling Canada’s second largest television system.

The group has filed an intervention with Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC), which will hold public hearings to look into the planned acquisition.

“Frankly, we were shocked that in applying for control of so many TV stations and specialty services Shaw didn’t even mention issues like closed captioning and descriptive video,”  Beverley Milligan, President and CEO of Media Access Canada, said in a release.
 
Shaw has offered some $200 million in benefits for transmitters, programming and interactivity, MAC described, but the group says it made no commitments to raise levels of described video programming, set at just three percent of the broadcast day.   

Shaw, noting recently that the Competition Bureau had cleared its acquisition of 100% of the over-the-air and specialty television businesses of Canwest,
praised the Board’s decision that the transaction will “not likely give rise to a substantial lessening or revention of competition” while saying it was
a positive development for the Canadian industry overall. 

“The Bureau has conducted a very thorough review and we appreciate their efforts to expeditiously complete their examination,” said Jim Shaw, CEO and Vice Chair of Shaw. “We look forward to moving ahead with this transaction. We are certain it will strengthen the Canadian broadcasting system to the benefit of all Canadians.” 

Meanwhile, the Canadian disability groups’ intervention, available on the CRTC website, makes ten specific recommendations to the CRTC to improve Shaw’s application with respect to accessibility.   

“The level of concern about Shaw’s decision to ignore accessibility issues in its application is unprecedented,” said Milligan.  “We are just hoping that
the CRTC will read and hear our submissions, and act on our concerns. 

“It took the CRTC twenty years to move Canada’s TV broadcasters to move to a 100% closed captioned television schedule,” she added. “In fact, the CRTC just held a major accessibility policy proceeding in 2008 and 2009, in which Shaw acknowledged accessibility’s importance. Shaw’s silence about accessibility in the Canwest application makes us ask how long Canadians who rely on descriptive video are supposed to wait before they can access television like everyone else? The year 2030?”    

Organizations and individuals supporting the intervention are:  Alliance for Equality of Blind Canadians; ACAD; Bob Rumball Centre for the Deaf; Canadian Abilities Foundation; Canadian Council on Disabilities; Canadian Hard of Hearing Association; Canadian Hearing Society; Canadian National Institute for the Blind; Professor D. Fells, B.A.Sc., M.H.Sc., PhD., P.Eng. at the Ted Rogers School of Information; Media Access Canada; Technology Management, Ryerson University; Inclusive Design Resource Centre (formerly the Adaptive Technology Resource Centre); Dr. Charles Laszlo, P.Eng, O.B.C, University of British Columbia; Mary Frances Laughton (Librarian and Archivist’s Advisory Council on Access to Information); March of Dimes; Neil Squire Foundation; Keith Parsonage; Sir Arthur Pearson War Blinded; Jim Sanders (C.M. Past President and Special Advisor, CNIB); Katika Stark (past Chair, NBRS). 

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Reproduced from http://www.mediacastermagazine.com/issues/story.aspx?aid=1000383347