Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Program Transcripts

There isn't much for which CNN deserves a lot of credit these days, but there's one lesson which I'd like to see Canadian networks take to heart. CNN is particularly vigilant about putting transcripts from its news programs online with free access, enabling viewers and non-viewers alike to get the full story from each broadcast. And if bloggers get to peruse the transcripts for material, all the better.

At CBC, access is somewhat more limited:
A transcript of a television program is $35 for a ½ hour segment or $45 for 1 hour. Turnaround time is 2 weeks.

In my view, the availability of transcripts is all the more important for a publicly-funded broadcaster. While the CBC could itself benefit from making the its broadcasts accessible in this additional medium (particularly if the blogosphere then makes more use of CBC's site), the CBC should also carry a stronger obligation toward the public good of making added information available - particularly where the relative cost of transcribing is much lower than the initial cost of production. While the analogy isn't exact, I'd liken the CBC's transcripts to the weather data which U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum wants to hide. If public money is flowing in, then the most information possible should flow out.

CTV also sells transcripts rather than making them available. As best I can tell (searching canada.com for the word "transcripts", "transcript" returns even fewer results), Global makes very few report transcripts available, with no apparent rhyme or reason to what makes the cut. Naturally these networks lack the public-interest motivation to make transcripts accessible. However, they could stand to follow CNN's calculation and decide that better access to their information is a smart means of attracting viewers and web-surfers alike.

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