City council is hitting the pause button on closed captioning.
City staff were asked to explore the cost and viability of closed-captioning for council meetings.
After determining the potential costs and learning about new CRTC regulations on the horizon, staff recommended delaying the idea until 2025. City council agreed.
Closed captioning displays text onscreen of the audio portions of broadcasts.
According to the staff report, the intent of live closed captioning is to enable people who are deaf, hard of hearing or who require literacy accommodations to watch real-time media.
Rogers televises and livestreams all regularly scheduled city council meetings. Recordings of the meetings are archived and made available for at least one year on Rogers website.
At the present time, neither the television broadcast nor the livestream of council meetings have closed captioning capabilities.
However, this summer, Rogers began uploading its footage of local city council meetings to its YouTube channel. YouTube uses voice recognition capabilities to add captioning to the video.
Rogers has advised that under the terms of its licence with the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC), it will be required to provide closed captioning of its programming when its current license expires in 2025.
Depending on future advancements in closed captioning technology, Rogers has indicated it will likely seek cost sharing arrangements with municipalities in 2025 to provide closed captioning of its city council meetings.
Rogers estimates it would cost $150 per hour, plus applicable taxes, to provide closed captioning of city council meetings.
At this rate, the estimated cost for a four-hour meeting is $600. There are typically up to 30 regular city council meetings scheduled annually, all of which are televised by Rogers. On occasion, Rogers will televise additional meetings, such as the ratification of the annual budget.
City staff estimates the annual cost to provide closed captioning for city council meetings is about $20,000.
Currently, staff noted, municipalities are not required under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act’s Information and Communications Standard to provide live closed captioning.
Staff note Orillia’s Council Chamber is equipped with hearing assistive devices for persons with a hearing impairment.
Staff also reminded councillors that a capital project was approved as part of the 2019 budget for the design phase of upgrades to and refurbishment of the Council Chamber.
Phase two with respect to the construction work will be proposed in the 2021 budget. The Council Chamber renovations will include enhanced accessibility features, including a dedicated screen to display closed captioning of council proceedings.
“This will allow staff to coordinate with Rogers in 2025 to explore closed captioning opportunities for members of the public attending meetings in person at the Orillia City Centre, in addition to the television broadcast and livestream,” noted the staff report.