Press Releases

MAC Press Releases:

Press Release

Media Access Canada takes lead establishing international standards for CC and DV

(Toronto, ON, Tuesday September 14, 2012)

A recent meeting of the international standards committee dealing with User interface accessibility (ISO/IEC JTC1/SC35/WG6) in Paris, France discussed Media Access Canada's (MAC) descriptive video best practices guide, published in January 2012. The ISO/IEC JTC1/SC35 User interfaces sub-committee invited Canada to propose a new work item to be based on the MAC descriptive video best practices guide.

Work is also planned on international standardization for digital closed captioning based on work by MAC and Ryerson University. This is tremendous recognition for Canada and for MAC, said Beverley Milligan, MAC's CEO. Our presentation to international stakeholders met with enormous support and encouragement. This work will have a profound impact on media accessibility both in Canada and around the world.

Representatives from China, U.K., USA, Japan, France, Korea, among other countries, were unanimous in welcoming MAC's approach in this area. Further indications of support have been forthcoming from stakeholders around the world who will participate at the next meeting to be held in Korea in February 2013.

MAC did not achieve this international recognition alone. Bell Media, Canada's premier multimedia company, is a committed funder of the study and helped finance MAC's work, which also benefitted from the support of many committed individuals:, representative of blind and low vision consumers and experts, manufacturers, broadcasters, government, and subject-matter experts at Ryerson University. Additionally, standards development expert, Jim Carter at the University of Saskatoon, redrafted the content into the format of the International Organization for Standardization ( ISO).

This is a continuation of Canada's international leadership in accessible standards and policy. Canada's formula for fully accessible media (which includes: on-air sponsorship, innovative regulatory policy and an entrepreneurial accessibility community) will be the international model in years to come - a Canadian success story.

Media Access Canada is a not for profit organization with a mandate to provide independent expertise in accessible media across all distribution platforms in business innovation, research and development, technical innovation, standards, education and policy.

For more information:

Beverley Milligan

Press Release

Media Access Canada's Chairman of the Board appointed President and CEO of the Canadian Institute of Chartered Business Valuators

(Toronto, ON, Tuesday February 14, 2012)

Media Access Canada is please to announce that its Chair, Allister Byrne, has been appointed President and CEO of the Canadian Institute of Chartered Business Valuators. In their announcement the Institute cites Allister's experience of over 30 years, both in leadership and management roles.

It is his depth of knowledge and financial expertise that makes Allister such a valuable member of the MAC board as the organization prepares itself to administer the $5.7 million Broadcasting Accessibility Fund (BAF). Alllister combines his financial expertise with a deep knowledge and understanding of the needs and aspirations of the accessibility community gained through his work with the March of Dimes, Canada.

The MAC board unites a remarkable group of committed professionals with expertise in broadcasting, finance and accessibility. These individuals bring an unrivalled knowledge of both the technical realities and challenges of accessibility, as well the vision and leadership to bring about the necessary changes. Elected by Access 2020 this group is well equipped to ensure that the fund fulfills its goal of full accessibility in Canadian broadcasting by the end of the decade.

For more information:

Beverley Milligan
Skype: MediacInc.

Press Release

Broadcasters Fall Short on Described Video

(Toronto, ON, Tuesday May 31, 2011)

Canadian broadcasters are providing more accessible content, but there are still areas of concern according to a recent study released by Media Access Canada (MAC). The study conducted by Analysis & Research in Communications Inc. measured accessible programming across ten Canadian broadcasters and found substantial improvements in the amount of closed captioning provided, while the level of described video content remained extremely low.

The study found that all ten Canadian broadcasters were not only meeting the number of CRTC required hours for captioning, but that they were actually going above and beyond the requirements. Beverley Milligan, Chief Executive Officer of MAC said, The results from captioning are encouraging, however we need further efforts from broadcasters to ensure that television is accessible to all Canadians.

In terms of quality, the study found large variations in the number of errors in closed captioning as some broadcasters had significantly more errors than others. It should be noted that at the current time, no standards exist for quality. Milligan said, This raises the question: when you have a high volume of errors in captioning, can you really call that program accessible?

The study also found an extremely low level of described video for blind and vision-impaired Canadians. Though the CRTC requires broadcasters to describe 4 hours of programming per week, seven out of ten were not in compliance. Canadian broadcasters can and should do better, said John Rae, Access 2020 Coalition member and 1st Vice President of the Alliance for Equality of Blind Canadians. At the moment many are falling short of a very low requirement. There is no excuse for failing to meet even these modest goals and broadcasters should provide Canadians who are blind and vision impaired with full access to television programs.

Monitor 2 is the first study to measure accessibility in Canadian broadcasting since 1992. Phase two of the study is set to begin this summer and will use focus group research to gather more information from people who rely on accessible content. In addition to publishing the final report this fall, the information from both phases of the study will be used to develop a Best Practices Guide for accessible content.

To participate in the focus groups or to obtain more information about the research, please contact Heather Largy. A full copy of the research results is available.

Press Release

Media Access Canada Board of directors appointments — New Board appoints Beverley Milligan Chief Executive Officer

(Toronto - 6 March 2011)

Media Access Canada today announced new board appointments - MAC's mission requires a depth of knowledge and a wide range of perspectives to direct the company in the coming years, said Terry Coles, Chair, MAC Achieving our objectives will involve close co-operation with governmental departments and the broadcast industry, our new board members are eminently qualified to ensure that.

As the newly appointed CEO of MAC it will be both exciting and humbling to collaborate with this group of remarkable individuals, each pioneers their respective industries, said Beverley Milligan. The new board members bring with them outstanding accomplishments in a range of fields including broadcasting business, finance, law, community service and accessibility to help guide the company as it completes design and begins implementation of a business plan to bring about 100% accessibility by the end of the decade.

MAC's new board appointments are:

Terry Coles, Chairman has had a distinguished career in radio and television. Currently President and COO of Vista Broadcast Group, in his 55 years in broadcasting, Terry brings to MAC a legacy of success, be it building the Mid-Canada TV System, President of CFCN-Calgary, CKY-TV Winnipeg CUC Communications or YTV.. Throughout his career, he has utilized his professional skills for philanthropic purpose and currently serves on the board of the Youth Orchestra of the Americas, based in Washington, DC.

Dr. Charles Laszlo, Vice Chair is a Professor Emeritus, Order of Canada recipient and Engineer - Mr. Laszlo is a successful businessman and academic having made significant contributions to the field of biomedicine. As the founding President of the Canadian Hard of Hearing Association, Charles served on its executive and board of directors in various capacities for 17 years.

Allister Byrne, Treasurer, has had a distinguished career in business and finance comprised of 40 years culminating with his role as Managing Partner to Grant Thorton LLP serving as Chairman of the National Board of Directors. He has served on many chartered accounting bodies, as the Chair of the March of Dimes and on the York Region Community Foundation.

Gary Malkowski, Secretary, is the first ever Province of Ontario deaf MPP - for York East from 1990-95. Serving as Parliamentary Assistant and on many Standing Committees, he introduced a Private Member's bill leading to the introduction and implementation of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act of 2005 - leaving a legacy for accessibility that is recognized internationally. Gary serves on the boards of various disability organizations and is currently working as Special Advisor to the President, Public Affairs at the Canadian Hearing Society (CHS).

As a law student, Anthony Tibbs co-founded and served as the director of the Centre for Students with Disabilities at the University of Ottawa. This student-funded, cross-disability initiative was formed to provide representation, advocacy support, and other services to students with disabilities. Anthony is currently pursuing a career in law.

For the past 6 years, Max Beck has been the Chief Executive Officer of Easter Seals Canada one of the largest National not-for-profit disability organizations in Canada. He has been head of Ontario Place, Social Planning for the City of Vancouver, Secretary of State (BC and Yukon), and Opportunities for Youth.

Cathy Moore has participated on various boards and committees. She was a commissioner on the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission and participated in the Partners Against Racism Committee. She was also a founding board member of REACH Nova Scotia, an organization dedicated to providing pro bono legal services to persons with disabilities. Currently Cathy serves as National Director, Government Relations for the CNIB.

We are thrilled to have assembled such an outstanding group to lead MAC as it prepares to undertake its groundbreaking work, says Chairman Terry Coles. With this kind of expertise and breadth of vision we are confident that MAC is well placed to become the world leader in broadcast accessibility in Canada and around the world.

For further information contact Beverley Milligan, Executive Director, Media Access Canada, or by phone: 416-488-9521.

Press Release

MAC presses government for action in advance of transition: disabled Canadians must be informed

(Toronto - 2 March 2011)

In an appearance before the Canadian Heritage Parliamentary Committee, Media Access Canada (MAC) pressed the government to take steps to inform and support disabled Canadians in advance of the transition to digital television. MAC argued the government must recognize that the broadcasting system is still not fully accessible, so concerted efforts to reach education Canadians with disabilities must extend beyond the broadcast network.

Imagine a deaf senior-citizen, living alone and on a fixed income who turns on her television September first only to receive no signal. She may believe the television is broken and will have to somehow discover what has actually happened, said Beverley Milligan, Executive Director of Media Access Canada. With no opportunity to plan and budget, how will this senior navigate through the very real challenges she and others with disabilities face from what to us might seem no more than a minor inconvenience?

A substantial proportion of the households affected by the transition to digital transmission, those with older tube televisions, will include at least one family member who uses captioning or description. Yet these are the very people who cannot be reached by a public service announcement. The transition will also impose a financial burden on households who will be forced to buy a new television or digital box or purchase a cable subscription. MAC insisted that the Canadian government should put in place a program to help cover the costs to individual households and to educate the public in advance to avoid confusion and hardship.

MAC looks forward to working closely with the broadcast community to fully achieve the Access 2020 goal of 100% accessible broadcasting by the end of the decade. The establishment of the Accessibility Fund will make Canada a world leader in broadcast accessibility. In the meantime, extra efforts must be made to cushion the impact of the digital transition on disabled Canadians.

For further information contact Beverley Milligan, Executive Director, Media Access Canada, or by phone: 416-488-9521.

Press Release

MAC urges Industry Canada to top-up the Accessibility Fund Initiative

(Toronto - 1 March 2011)

In a filing with Industry Canada, concerning plans for the 700 MHz spectrum, Media Access Canada (MAC) on behalf of the Access 2020 Coalition called for the Ministry to take advantage of this unique auction opportunity to top-up the Accessibility Fund, proposed by MAC and supported by BCE.

MAC is urging Industry Canada to include a 10% buyer's premium, consistent with other auctions, on successful bids for the 700 spectrum, applying a portion of the funds collected to the Accessibility Fund. The Accessibility Fund is the first of its kind in the world and Industry Canada, like the CRTC, has the opportunity to make Canada the international innovator in technical and policy development, said Beverley Milligan, Executive Director of MAC. Finally, those most directly affected by accessibility in the Canadian communications system will be empowered to take charge.

The auction creates a unique opportunity to allocate funding to an issue that is receiving increasing attention in Canadian broadcasting and telecommunications. MAC and Access 2020 are committed to reach its goal to fully finance a business model being developed with members of the accessibility community to achieve 100% captioning and description by 2020. Currently at $5.7 million, the Fund's establishment is conditional on the CRTC approval of BCE's acquisition of CTV.

MAC urged Industry Canada to keep the issue of accessibility in the forefront in any decision on policy or technology arguing that the Canadian Human Rights Act places a positive duty on the Canadian government to ensure full accessibility to the broadcasting system for disabled Canadians.

For further information contact Beverley Milligan, Executive Director, Media Access Canada, or by phone: 416-488-9521.

Press Release

CRTC supports groundbreaking accessibility initiative

For immediate release

(Toronto, 5 February 2011) In hearings concerning BCE's proposed takeover of CTV, CRTC Chairman Konrad von Finckenstein yesterday directed BCE to return Monday with a clear plan to address the proposal of the Access 2020 Coalition for an independent fund whose engineering, research and educational work will ensure complete access by persons with disabilities to broadcasting and telecommunications by the year 2020.

Led by Media Access Canada, the Access 2020 Coalition of the country's largest organizations of Canadians with disabilities, asked the CRTC to back a 21st century initiative to launch five project envelopes including technological innovation, empirical research, business plans, program archives and education. The Coalition's multi-pronged approach is designed to eliminate the barriers that for decades have prevented millions of persons with disabilities from enjoying available information and entertainment programming, said Beverley Milligan, Media Access Canada's Executive Director.

The CRTC pointed out at the last day of its hearing that funds are available to support the Coalition's Accessibility Initiative. BCE apparently has $5.7 million set aside from a previous ownership transaction, said Milligan. The yearly interest on that — approximately $100,000 — will support roughly a quarter of the annual work needed to change the decades-old approach to accessible broadcasting and telecommunications. Milligan added that the CRTC also told BCE that its tangible benefits package was low by $13 million.

Combining the benefits shortfall with unspent money gives BCE the chance to go down in history as the 21st century world leader in digital accessibility, said Milligan. We applaud the CRTC's decision to build a legacy in accessibility by supporting an Initiative that will ensure 100% accessibility for millions of Canadians across all digital platforms, by the year 2020.

For additional information, or a copy of the Access 2020 Coalition's intervention, A Bridge to the Future, contact us.

Press Release

Disabled Canadians Again Rebuffed

CRTC must support accessibility initiative, says Access 2020 Coalition

For immediate release

(Toronto, 27 January 2011) Bell Canada Enterprises has ignored Canadians with disabilities. Its response to interventions concerning its proposed acquisition of one of Canada's largest English-language broadcasters failed to address the issue of accessibility - or even mention the word.

Access 2020, a coalition of the country's largest organizations of Canadians with disabilities, filed a 73-page intervention with the CRTC about the BCE broadcasting purchase, asking it to support the empirical studies, technological innovation, programming archives and education needed to enable Canada's communications system to become fully accessible to all by the year 2020. BCE's response to interveners did not refer to the Coalition and wrote that all Canadians with access to television can view the programming (para. 111).

In fact, noted Beverley Milligan, Executive Director of Media Access Canada, Over 800,000 blind Canadians cannot 'view the programming' and another 1.2 million cannot hear it. The current industry-driven approach to inclusion simply is not working. Canadians need the CRTC to step in to represent their interests -- and to ensure that our Coalition's plan for 100% accessibility by the year 2020 is implemented. Accessibility standards do not exist for internet TV or telephones, frequent errors make captions useless, and only 3% of TV programs must be described, said Milligan.

TV broadcast should be accessible to all Canadian audiences, which means 100% reliable captioning and descriptive video, said Chris Kenopic, President of the Canadian Hearing Society. The lack of enforced standards, specifically descriptive video, renders much television programming inaccessible for people with vision loss, added Cathy Moore, CNIB's National Director. How long do we have to wait to be able to access TV like everyone else? Frankly, if the CRTC approves BCE's current application, it will be sending the clear and unequivocal message that persons with disabilities are second-class citizens when it comes to broadcasting and telecommunications.

The CRTC generally requires 6 to 10% of an acquisition's value be used to benefit the broadcasting system. Since 2000 it has approved benefits worth $878 million, of which just under $6 million (or 0.63% of the benefits) have been directed to accessibility. Access 2020's intervention, A Bridge to the Future, explained how allocating 1% of acquisitions from now until 2016 to an Accessibility Initiative trust fund would enable every communications company in Canada to offer completely accessible television content, on every platform, within ten years.

We do not need a few more hours per week of described TV, said Mike Potvin, Program and Communications Manager for the Canadian Council of the Blind. The entire communications system must become fully accessible. A transaction of this magnitude must benefit all Canadians by funding the desperately needed research and innovation that will reduce accessibility costs for all companies, including BCE.

For further information or a copy of A Bridge to the Future, contact:

Beverley Milligan, Media Access Canada
(416) 488-9521

The Access 2020 coalition includes:

  • Alliance for Equality of Blind Canadians
  • Bob Rumball Centre for the Deaf
  • Canadian Council of the Blind
  • Canadian Hard of Hearing Association
  • Canadian Hearing Society
  • CNIB
  • Canadian Association for Accessible Travel Training Tourism Services
  • Easter Seals of Canada
  • Inclusive Design Resource Centre of the Ontario College of Arts and Design
  • March of Dimes
  • Neil Squire Foundation, and
  • Sir Arthur Pearson Association of War Blinded.