It was pleasing to discover yesterday, via a question from Catherine to Broadcasting Minister Jonathan Coleman, that the seven Rugby World Cup matches screened live on TVNZ next year will include live captioning for the deaf community – after all, we promised the world a ‘stadium of 4 million people’, and this ought to include the 200,000 New Zealanders who are deaf or have a hearing disability.
Still, it’s disappointing that only the seven games on TVNZ will be captioned, out of the 48 fixtures in the entire tournament.
In his answer to the House yesterday, the Minister seemed to imply that TVNZ was the only broadcaster in New Zealand capable of live captioning, but I find this hard to believe from a technical point of view – aside from cost and political will, is there really a technological barrier?
Maori TV are broadcasting all 48 matches free to air, 16 live, and 32 delayed. Maori TV is also a state-owned broadcaster, and is simultaneously screening every match on a second channel with commentary in Te Reo Maori. If this is possible, then surely the Government could require captioning for the deaf community?
It’s now widely accepted that ensuring accessibility is an important part of hosting an international sporting event. At the recent Football World Cup in South Africa, post-match reports in International Sign Language were available for download from the FIFA website for every match. There’s really no excuse for an inaccessible Rugby World Cup next year: in addition to the 200,000 New Zealanders who could miss out, there’s also an estimated 70 million deaf people around the world to take into account!
Catherine asked whether the Minister would broaden the sports captioning project beyond the Rugby World Cup, or remind private broadcasters of their responsibilities to make their programming accessible under the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. After all, we’re pretty far behind the international eight-ball on this one – the US has had live captioning of all televised sports matches since 1982.
Sadly, he had no response, and worse, staged a nasty and unwarranted little attack on the Greens using a bizarre question from fellow National MP Melissa Lee. Not a good look, and it backfired when
referee Speaker Lockwood Smith, quite rightly, ruled it out of order.