Every week, we at John Hauber Productions get two or three calls and emails from people who would like to purchase described movies and television shows. Unfortunately, our answer is always the same: while we have described thousands of hours, and have most of that material backed up on our systems, we are not allowed to sell it to you because we don’t have the rights to it. That answer always leaves a bitter taste in our mouth, and we imagine an even more bitter sound in the ears of those who receive it.
The cost of describing a show or movie has dropped drastically in the last four or five years. The difference is even more significant when compared to 10 years ago.
In the past, the high cost of described video made it prohibitively expensive for anyone except the established networks, who of course paid for as much as they were required to by their specific mandate, but not more.
Today, however, the situation is considerably different. Recently, more and more educational establishments have been commissioning DV for their blind and low-vision students. In the last few months alone, John Hauber Productions described a set of five movies based on the plays of William Shakespeare for one college, and a set of educational videos for another.
This makes sense now because, as representatives of those two establishments have said, DV has become cheaper, and it’s definitely cheaper than a lawsuit!
So, has the time arrived for a crowd-funding system for descriptive video to be set up?
Crowd-funding is the generic term for any system where a group of people (10, 100, 1000) each contributes a small amount of money towards a given goal.
Let’s assume a vision-impaired person would really like to get a certain movie, or TV show, with description. Obviously, he or she will not be willing to pay the cost of having it described, as it’s still quite high. But what if one hundred people did? A group that size could have a typical movie described for under 15 dollars each. A one hour TV show would cost each 7.5 dollars. And a half hour show would cost them 4.
There are many different options for crowd-funding (also known as crowdfunding or crowdsourcing) available on the internet, from systems like indiegogo.com to payment processing systems like Bitcoin.
We, the providers of audio description, could set up crowdsourcing systems, or they could be organised by the advocacy groups (the CNIB in Canada, for example, or the ACB in the US).
Perhaps the time has come to put the control of at least some of what gets described back in the hands of those who will end up using the description, and the use of crowd funding would certainly fill that niche.