An open response from the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Communities in New Zealand to the Rt Hon Craig Foss, Minister of Broadcasting…
On 20 March 2014 MP Mojo Mathers asked the Minister of Broadcasting in Parliament “Did he think that television programmes made with public funds should be screened with captions so that New Zealanders with hearing loss can watch them?”
On behalf of the Hon Craig Foss, Hon Dr Johnathan Coleman responded as in bold below.
Point by point we will now respond to the Hon Craig Foss.
Government supports captioning services for free-to-air television programmes from New Zealand On Air – the Government is financially limited.
International, reliable, statistics as applied by the Royal National Institute for the Deaf in London and the Deafness Forum of Australia state that 1:6 people will have some type of hearing impairment. This equates to over 700,000 New Zealanders will have some type of hearing loss, many of whom will need to use or will benefit from using captioning to augment their ability to understand words spoken on broadcast mediums such as television, cinema, Youtube etc
The current government annual funding allocation of $2.4million to both captioning and audio-description, which when applied to 700,000 citizens with hearing loss and 11,000 blind citizens equates to a government allocation of approximately $3.38 per citizen per annum.
The New Zealand Government has failed to successfully apply CRPD Article 9, Accessibility, which states that people with disabilities are to have access “…to information and communications, including information and communications technologies and systems…” .
With captioning this equates to ensuring people who are deaf or hard of hearing are aware that captioning is available and how to use it. Though we have applied the current amount of government funding to the internationally recognised number of people with hearing impairment, the lack of sector wide captioning education by the Government means that we cannot be sure how many people actually do use it.
Nevertheless, the Government allocation is inadequate and underscores the lack of commitment by this Government for the safety and social integration of New Zealanders who are deaf or hearing impaired.
The number of captioned television programmes in New Zealand has been steadily increasing over the past decade; 250 hours of television programming is being captioned per week in New Zealand, compared to 70 hours per week ten years ago.
Minister, from analysing programmes aired in November 2013 at least 50% of all captioned programmes are repeats.
When a non-captioned repeat programme is being aired for viewing by the hearing able sector, they have the option of switching to a wide range of channels with an extensive selection of programmes to watch, but we can only watch captioned programmes.
The deaf and hearing impaired community consults with the Government to determine which programmes are captioned.
It is correct that we are consulted, but we play no part in making the decision on what programmes are captioned or when the captioned programmes are aired.
As reported in the 2013 Captioning Working Group Survey, the deaf and hearing impaired sectors are calling for captioning on Prime television, morning news and events on Breakfast television, the news on TV3, Documentaries and TV on Demand. These are our top priority programmes that need to be captioned but it’s simply not happening.
Also many quality captioned programmes that we have previously been able to view have moved to channels that don’t provide captions, further frustrating our communities. This includes the recent move of Bones which went from TV3 to Prime and Homeland from TV3 to Soho.
Hon Dr Johnathan Coleman does not believe that Maori captions should be an option.
This is an area where Maori need a voice and this response shows a lack of understanding of the need for all to be able to access information.
Only 23% of programmes on television each week are captioned which compares very poorly to other western countries that have legislation such as the UK and the US who have achieved 100% captioning of public television. We believe these countries have achieved the percentages they are now enjoying because of legislation. This gives a good range of options and denies the State the opportunity to dictate what we can watch.
Research shows that until legislation is enacted, Broadcasters will not introduce a reasonable rate of captioning. We ask again if you will please introduce in the Broadcasting Act and the Telecommunications Act the mandatory requirement to apply captioning.
Louise Carroll QSO, GDPPA, MPA (Mgment)
Captioning Working Group