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To the CRTC Re: Application 2002-0702-8

Tuesday, April 1, 2003

From: Board of Directors

Ms. Diane Rheaume
Secretary General
Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission CRTC
Ottawa, Ontario
K1A 0N2

Re: Application 2002-0702-8

Dear Ms. Rheaume:

  1. The Board of Directors of The National Federation of the Blind: Advocates for Equality (NFB:AE) would like to express the organization's support for the license renewal filed by VoicePrint Canada, part of the National Broadcast Reading Service.
  2. Founded in 1992, the NFB:AE is a national organization of persons who are blind, Deaf-blind or vision impaired whose purpose is to educate the public and decision makers about the realities of blindness.
  3. We wish to bring to the attention of the Commission the following points:
  4. VoicePrint's staff, which includes four visually-impaired employees, is more diverse, relatively speaking, than most federally regulated companies. They don't just broadcast to the community; they have respected the community and have gained from its resources.
  5. VoicePrint's original productions are well-produced and relevant. Notable highlights include the December 3, 2002 programming surrounding the Ontarians with Disabilities Act, the Pfizer Paralympics segments, as well as interviews which Kelly Ashton has contributed to programmes like Ability Today. These interviews, conducted with well-known figures such as David Lepofsky (Ontarians with Disabilities Act Committee), Terry Snazel (Bell ExpressVu), Ian Brodie (Canadian Standards Association) and Terry Kelly (singer, song-writer and motivator) reveal a rare mix of relaxed, informal atmosphere and rich information content. They set VoicePrint apart from other information-only services and provide the listenership with unique opportunities to probe into the lives of interesting people.
  6. The NFB:AE does wish to point out that carriage on Basic Cable, rather than on the Second Audio Programme of CBC Newsworld, would definitely attract more listeners since it would simplify the technical requirements for receiving the service. It would also give VoicePrint the consideration now given to all current Basic Cable offerings, consideration they well deserve. We, the visually-impaired population of Canada, should have the right to complete access to this service which is so important.
  7. Importance of Local, Regional, and Original Programming: NFB:AE supports VoicePrint's plans for expansion into regions currently without their own local and regional programming. Local and regional information is vital to allowing blind and visually impaired Canadians to be involved in their communities. Mainstream media do not fulfill the information needs of print disabled persons particularly at the local level. Information such as birth, death and marriage notices, television guides, community news and information are typically only available in print form. VoicePrint's expanded local and regional programming will help to fill this void. NFB:AE also endorses the need for the proposed increase in original daily VoicePrint programming. For many, VoicePrint provides an ongoing window on the world - an increase in original programming inevitably will open that window significantly.
  8. Outreach Programme: The research submitted by NBRS confirms that a lack of awareness prevents VoicePrint from maximizing its effectiveness. The research shows that the people who most need the service often are not aware that it is available. NFB:AE is committed to working with NBRS in its Outreach Programme to make more Canadians aware of VoicePrint. NFB:AE will continue to promote and advertise the service to its members and friends, as well as continuing to use VoicePrint as a major communication link with blind and visually impaired persons.
  9. The NFB:AE commends the Commission for the interest it continues to show towards expanding access to information for print-disabled Canadians. VoicePrint is a vital part of that access and therefore we strongly encourage the Commission to treat their renewal application favourably.
  10. Please feel free to contact John Rae, National President of NFB:AE, electronically or by phone, regarding these comments.

Thank you.

John Rae
President, National Federation of the Blind: Advocates for Equality

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