TVNZ moves the 4th Season ‘Switched At Birth’ to their Non Captioned On Demand Service. “The irony of this show not being available with captioning does not escape us.”

New Year. New Start. New Resolutions?

We hope so. We hope that TVNZ will make a commitment to captioning OnDemand.

TVNZ On Demand will shortly be airing Season 4 of Switched at Birth.

When Switched at Birth first came out on American TV, there was so much chatter about the programme over the internet, yet we in New Zealand couldn’t access it. The Captioning Working Group asked TVNZ in one of our meetings to start broadcasting it, as it was very much sought after. We were all immensely pleased when they answered our request and started playing this on TV with captions. We were a bit concerned at the timeslot, (Sunday afternoons) but we grabbed it and the Deaf and Hard of Hearing communities in New Zealand have enjoyed talking about the series, in person, and on Facebook.

Here’s the story line synopsis from TVNZ: “Switched at Birth tells the story of two teenage girls who discover they were accidentally switched as newborns in the hospital. Bay Kennish grew up in a wealthy family with two parents and a brother. Meanwhile, Daphne Vasquez, who contracted meningitis and became deaf at an early age, grew up with a single mother in a working-class neighborhood. Things come to a dramatic head when the families meet and struggle to learn how to live together for the sake of the girls.”

TVNZ have now moved this whole series to their On Demand Service, a service that is NOT captioned which means the Deaf and Hard of hearing people of New Zealand, who once enjoyed this series, can no longer access it.

The irony of this show not being available with captioning does not escape us. The show makes prominent use of sign language and features Marlee Matlin the only deaf performer to win the Academy Award for Best Actress in a Leading Role. Deaf since she was 18 months old, she is also a prominent member of the National Association of the Deaf in America and a tireless campaigner for captioning access. As is required by US law, the show airs with captioning in the US on TV and On Demand.

We asked TVNZ in December for an update on their captioning progress. They said “Hi CaptionitNZ, we understand there is some demand from users for subtitles on TVNZ OnDemand but we don’t have the technical capability to enable this. We’re currently mid-way through a significant upgrade of our technology and we’ll look at the feasibility of developing subtitle capability after the upgrade is completed”.

Great to get an update but the new upgrade should have been designed with captioning in mind. In November last year, we were told by the BBC iPlayer team, that there is absolutely no technical obstacles for captioning on Demand Services. In fact there are many On Demand players designed by broadcasters overseas that do it (technology does what you ask it to do). BBCiPlayer even tweet showing closed captioning to get a message across! Here is one from today.

We ask that TVNZ and the other broadcasters operating in New Zealand make a commitment to captioning and make this a priority in their New Years Resolutions.

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Rest assured, we will keep campaigning until access via captioning is the norm. Give us a follow on Facebook or twitter, spread the word of the need for words!

Happy New Year everyone.

PS Here’s a little Youtube taster of last season Switched at Birth with captioning.

TVNZ Announcement

CaptionitNZ Facebook

CaptionitNZ on Twitter

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