International policy and legislation

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UK TV services continue to exceed access requirements

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Ofcom, the UK media and communications regulator, has published data on access services provided on television in the first half of 2011, revealing the vast majority of services have exceeded their legal obligations, particularly for captioning and audio description.

The Television Access Services: Report of the first six months of 2011 revealed that 11 channels provided captions on more than 99% of programming and 35 channels at least doubled the minimum requirement of providing audio description on 10% of programming. All channels with sign language obligations met the minimum requirements.

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Audio description rules formally adopted in USA


On 25 August 2011 the Federal Communications Commission formally voted in the requirements to deliver audio description on a number of American TV and cable channels.  These new rules flow on from the provisions of the 21st Century Video Accessibility Act and apply from October 2011 with full compliance required by July 2012. 

The rules require the major television networks (ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC) and their affiliates in the top 25 market areas to provide audio description (called “video description” in the USA) to provide at least 50 hours of children’s or prime time programming per quarter.  These rules also apply to any cable and satellite stations with more than 50,000 subscribers, including the Disney Channel, Nickelodeon, TNT and TBS.

There are additional requirements designed to minimise repeats and existing description counting towards the quota.

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Canadian Government launches new standard on web accessibility


 The Canadian Government has announced that all public facing government websites will comply with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines(WCAG) 2.0 level AA. The new requirements came into effect on 1 August 2011 and will be implemented in three phases over two years.

The Standard on Web Accessibility outlines the requirements for government departments, and is supported by a guidance document outlining specific deliverables, tools and solutions. The Government suggested that the departments start implementing the guidelines immediately, giving priority to core content and most important information.

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Canadian communications regulator calls for comments on proposed caption quality standards


The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) has called for comments on proposed English-language and French-language Caption Quality Standards.

In 2007, the commission introduced a new policy which stated that broadcasters must caption 100% of programs apart from commercials and promos. It also instructed the Canadian Association of Broadcasters to establish caption working groups for the English language market and French-language market, which would include representatives from the broadcasters, distributors, consumer and advocacy groups, and caption providers.

The commission noted that there were some areas on which the English-language working group could not reach consensus. These included:

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