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Disability Rights: Report on DVD access 2

Report on the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission (the Commission) second Roundtable on DVD access

The second Roundtable meeting on DVD access took place in Sydney on 10 September 2007. It was attended by the Australian Visual Software Distributors Association (AVSDA) and a number of its members, representatives from a number of disability community organisations, the Federal Attorney-Generals Department, Film Finance Australia , Media Access Australia (MAA) and the Commission.

Introduction

The meeting was chaired by the Human Rights Commissioner and Commissioner responsible for Disability Discrimination, Mr Graeme Innes AM.

Commissioner Innes welcomed participants and thanked those members of the Working Group which was established after the first Roundtable in February 2007, for the work they had done over the past six months.

Commissioner Innes also noted the increasing interest in media access issues at a political level and observed that a Senate motion calling for 100 % captioning of television, movies, DVDs, and public service announcements was due to be debated on this day.

(Note: the Senate motion was actually withdrawn after discussions between Senator Stott Despoja and Minister Coonan who announced that a Departmental investigation would be undertaken to determine where Australia stands against international benchmarks and where we need to lift our efforts.

See http://www.humanrights.gov.au/about/media/media_releases/2007/67_07.html and

http://www.minister.dcita.gov.au/media/media_releases/ensuring_access_to_electronic_media_for_the_hearing_impaired

Report on agreement for DVD access information on slicks

AVSDA reported on the agreement that had been reached with the disability sector on the Working Group concerning the labelling and placement of access information on DVD slicks. Details of the agreement can be found on the AVSDA website at http://www.avsda.com.au/dvdaccess.asp

Commissioner Innes congratulated AVSDA on adopting this as an industry standard and on the prominence that DVD access issues now had on the Associations website.

MAA research update on availability of access features and recent inquiries

MAA had circulated an update on access feature availability prior to the Roundtable and noted that the figures were based on information provided on the DVD slicks. While the data collected was only indicative it showed some improvements over time, but continued to show significant differences in performance amongst distributors and a continuing low availability of Audio Description (AD).

AVSDA Accessibility Framework for the Home Entertainment Film Industry

AVSDA provided an overview of the proposed framework the objectives of which are to:

  • promote the availability of access features for Deaf and blind people and those with a vision or hearing impairment on titles released in Australia , and
  • promote the use of clearer and consistent labelling of DVDs that provide access features.

AVSDA reported that their Board had adopted the Framework and that it would be promoted throughout the whole membership.

AVSDA noted that while the Framework committed members to do as much as they could to ensure access features were included on DVDs where available, further progress (particularly in the area of AD) depended on resolving commercial questions being raised in the business case.

Disability sector representatives welcomed the development of the Framework. They noted that the principle referring to AVSDA members advocating with their suppliers of DLT masters that access features should be included on DLTs for the Australian market was of such importance it should be given greater prominence. AVSDA agreed to look at that proposal when finalising the Framework.

Disability sector representatives also sought clarification on the proposed role of AVSDA in responding on behalf of members to complaints about accessibility of specific DVD titles where access features were available overseas and not in Australia .

AVSDA agreed to look further at how it might access information on complaints and inquiries about access issues throughout its membership in order to obtain as clear a picture as possible of trends and issues.

Commissioner Innes proposed that once the Framework is finalised all parties should liaise concerning possible press releases and media contact.

Business case paper - update on progress

AVSDA thanked MAA for the development of the Analysis of DVD market and access in Australia paper and noted how important a business case assessment was in advocating for increased availability of access features, both with overseas parent companies and locally.

Disability sector representatives noted that when looking at possible markets we should recognise that access features are used by and benefit far more people than just those who are Deaf or have a hearing impairment.

AVSDA had not been able to complete its review of the paper, but committed to doing that as soon as possible. Once complete AVSDA intended (through Warner Home Video) to identify a suitable middle order DVD that did not have any access features to ‘road test' the analysis.

Disability sector representatives, the Commission and MAA agreed to work with AVSDA to ensure the ‘road test' was successful. It was proposed that the Working Group re-convene at an appropriate time to plan for the release.

Report on the Commission discussions with TV stations and production houses

The Commission reported that planned meetings with TV stations and production houses was postponed at the request of FreeTV who wished to discuss the issues with their membership and that a new date had not yet been set.

Promoting and publicising the availability of access features on DVDs

All Roundtable participants agreed on the need for a concerted effort to ensure the availability of access features on DVDs was broadly promoted.

MAA reported they had been working on some community services announcements for Vision Australia Radio.

Disability sector representatives reported that they were also taking every opportunity to promote and inform their membership of the availability of access features.

The disability sector also encouraged AVSDA members to ensure that information on their websites identifying DVDs with access features was also accessible.

Roundtable update on news

FFC

The Film Finance Corporation representative outlined the recently adopted FFC policy that all films receiving FFC funds would be required to ensure a closed captioning file was available. As the policy came into force in July it is not likely that the effect of the policy will be seen for about 12 months when films funded after July reach final production and are released.

FFC will be working with Producers to inform them about the policy and process.

FFC also noted that as there are currently only 10 cinemas with the capacity to show captioned films the availability of FFC funded films will be limited to those cinemas that take up the films.

Raising children DVD

Commissioner Innes reported on actions arising from the recent release of Raising Children DVD which was funded by Federal Government but which did not have any access features. Confirmation has now been received that captioning will be available on the next run of the DVD and advice is being sought on how to include AD. Commissioner Innes reported that he had written to the Prime Minister and relevant Departments proposing the need to review current Government policy and practice.

Next meeting

Roundtable participants agreed to leave the date for the next meeting open depending on the timeframe for the proposed ‘road test' to be undertaken by Warner.