Plea to increase captions on TV

HEATHER SIMPSON
Last updated 05:00 29/03/2014

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When the Seddon earthquake hit last July, Renwick woman Robyn Carter turned to her television for information.

Being profoundly deaf she hoped the news would be captioned, but it was not.

Miss Carter has a cochlear implant, which allows her to hear many things including conversations on her specially adapted telephone, but she can't understand speech on television or radio and depends on TV captioning to understand.

"I didn't know if people required help, if infrastructure was OK, if roads were closed, if there were gas leaks. I had to rely on texts from a friend to know if everything was OK."

Miss Carter is a board member of Deaf Aotearoa New Zealand, which, together with National Foundation for the Deaf and the Hearing Association, is promoting a campaign for 100 per cent captioning on New Zealand television.

There are 700,000 deaf and hearing impaired people in New Zealand.

The Government supports captioning services on free-to-view TV through New Zealand on Air, with annual funding of $2.4 million for provisions of captioning descriptions and audio description.

New Zealand on Air's captioning service runs at around 250 hours per week of which 120 hours are repeats, said Miss Carter. It equated to just 40 per cent of television programmes, she said.

As part of Hearing Week, Miss Carter wants the Government to follow other countries' leads and make 100 per cent captioning on television put into legislation.

"We are lobbying Government, but they are not listening. In this election year an extra 700,000 votes (from the deaf and hearing impaired) would make a difference."

Captioning is not only important for hearing impaired, but the elderly and those with English as a second language, she said.

In response to questions, Broadcasting Minister Craig Foss did not indicate if he would support legislation of 100 per cent captioning.

"The taxpayer funds 35 hours of free captioned content every day," he said. "The Government continues to support an increase . . . and has increased available captioning from 70 hours per week to more than 250 since 2000."

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- The Marlborough Express

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