Push for mandatory captioning in New Zealand

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Wednesday, 9 August 2017 11:09am

Change is being urged in New Zealand when it comes to TV and film captioning for Deaf and hearing impaired people. The reality behind this call to action is the fact that this important section of society is missing out on a huge amount that contributes to their quality of life when captioning isn't available.

Don’t just tell me. Show me.

Don’t just tell me. Show me.

This new campaign for change is being led by a collaboration of three deaf & hard of hearing organisations using the banner name of #CaptionitNZ and their CaptionitNZ Facebook page is attracting a lot of positive feedback. It is supported by NZ on Air, an independent New Zealand broadcast funding agency responsible for the funding of public-good broadcasting content across television, radio and new media platforms, along with the New Zealand Film Commission.

An inquiry carried out by the NZ parliament's Government Administration Inquiry is suggesting that captioning become a statutory requirement and a recommendation that access to captioning be improved across all platforms including TV, film, and online.

Committee Chair, Labour MP Ruth Dyson, said MPs on the committee agreed on an outcome – more captioning, but not yet the method of doing it. “The National Party members thought it would just happen incrementally, but the Labour and Green members are of the view that after decades of being behind, we really need to take action and put some legislative measures and requirements in place,” said Ms Dyson. “The children that came to the committee spoke in huge frustration at kid’s programmes that all their mates can watch, but they can’t because it’s not captioned,” she added.

Leading Not For Profit digital advocacy group, Media Access Australia, is dedicated to increasing web and digital accessibility for people with disability, and a whole-hearted supporter of more inclusion for those who are Deaf and hearing-impaired. The charity has been part of a working group to get Audio Description on to free to air TV in Australia and is fully supportive of the push in NZ for mandatory captioning on TV, which has a different funding landscape than is the case in Australia.

"New Zealand has an anomalous situation in that all television captioning is funded by the New Zealand government through NZ on Air," said Media Access Australia's captioning consultant, Chris Mikul.

"However, because there's no statutory requirement to provide any captioning, as there is in Australia and many other countries, there's no mechanism in place for increasing captioning levels, and if NZ on Air's funding was ever cut, captioning could actually be reduced," said Mr Mikul. "Therefore, this push for legislative change makes perfect sense."


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