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New Zealand Parliament TV Adds Closed Captioning

  • screenshot of Parliament TV footage displaying live closed captioning

    As of today, New Zealand’s government will add closed captions to Parliament TV in an effort to increase accessibility.

    New Zealand Broadcasting Minister Amy Adams and Disability Issues Minister Nicky Wagner made the announcement via press release.

    The move follows a pattern of increased commitment to closed captioning at a national level. Pressured by advocacy from the New Zealand Captioning Working Group, Adams promised more captioning for Prime TV, a national free-to-air channel (comparable to BBC or PBS).

    Parliament TV (PTV) is a national network devoted to broadcasting live footage of the New Zealand Parliament sessions, similar to C-Span in the United States.

    What This Means for Kiwi Citizens

    Green Party MP Mojo Mathers, who was involved in activating PTV captioning, explained why captions matter:

    This is an important part of a healthy, transparent democracy.

    Green Party MP Mojo Mathers

    Being able to watch what is being said in Parliament makes a huge difference to me and my work.

    Live captions will also enable thousands of hearing-impaired and Deaf New Zealanders to access parliamentary debates on the same basis as others.

    This is an important part of a healthy, transparent democracy.

    Wagner agreed, and added that closed captioning benefits more people than you might expect:

    Parliament is the centre of democracy in New Zealand and it is essential that it is inclusive and accessible for all New Zealanders.

    Having closed captions for all of Parliament’s sittings enables more people to participate in democracy by being able to understand the questions and debate in the House.

    The benefits of captioning are wide-ranging. While it can assist the deaf and hearing impaired, captioning particularly benefits older people as the likelihood of hearing impairment increases with age. People with English as a second language will also benefit as will those who are viewing Parliament TV in a noisy environment.

    Adams and Wagner credited the Office of the Clerk with spearheading the initiative. Clerk of the House of Representatives David Wilson is quoted on the PTV captioning page with an insightful stat:

    One in nine people in New Zealand uses captions when watching TV content. So providing live captioning for our Parliament TV audience is a significant advance towards making Parliament’s information even more accessible.

    Interestingly enough, a recent study by NZ On Air showed that caption use has increased from Wilson’s statistic. Whereas about 1 in 10 Kiwis used closed captioning in 2014, that figure is not 1 in 6 people.

    1 in 6 people in New Zealand uses captions when watching TV

    How PTV Captions Work

    Because the programming is live, the captions are produced by stenographers in real-time, with about a 3-6 second lag time to display on screen. Target accuracy rate is 98%.

    Closed captioned PTV programming can be accessed by:

    • Watching footage on the PTV website
    • Using the Virtual House App
    • Watching PTV broadcasts on Freeview, Sky, Vodafone, or Igloo

    In addition to live streaming coverage, closed captions will display on rebroadcasts at 6pm and 10pm when Parliament is not in session.

    Web Accessibility and Closed Captioning in Australia & New Zealand

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