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Captioning The Election Addresses For Deaf Voters

Captioning The Election Addresses On Television For Deaf And Hearing Impaired Voters

Deaf lobbyist Kim Robinson asks all the political parties who are funded via public money to broadcast their TV addresses with captions. With more than 220,000 (Census 2001) potential voters in New Zealand who are Deaf and Hearing-Impaired, not captioning the addresses will bring the definition of public money into question under section 74 of the Broadcasting Act 1989.

So far only two parties have arranged for their TV addresses to be captioned. This is quite disappointing as this also raises the question, are English and Maori verbal-only languages? The Electoral Commission allocates public money for the use of public campaigning. By excluding Deaf and Hearing-impaired persons from having access to this information via the use of public money it means that a large proportion of people will miss out on what is being said.

Elections are supposed to be a time of participation for every eligible voter in New Zealand, not just restricted to those with the advantage of access to mainstream auditory information. This goes to show how neglected the group of people is to whom the flow of information is restricted and unable to be fixed by the conventional means of hearing aids or cochlear implants that would enable them to gain access to vital information and make an informed choice.

This is related to the lack of funding that Captioning NZ receives per year. NZ On Air funds captioning on Teletext page 801 at $1.5 million per year to cover around 100 hours per week out of over 1000 hours per week of programmes on the public free-to-air channels. This amount is not sufficient to cater for the Deaf and Hearing-impaired population in New Zealand. It is estimated that $15 million per year will be required to cover 1000+ hours of captioning.

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