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December 19, 2002

Leery broadcaster stymies Net text system

From: Asahi Shimbun, Japan - 19 Dec 2002

The Asahi Shimbun

The disapproval of a major broadcaster is thwarting the efforts of a support group to implement a text display system on its Web site that would allow the hearing disabled to more fully enjoy television viewing.

A few years ago, ''Jinko-naiji tomono kai'' (Association of Cochlear Implant Transmitted Audition) started transcription of the spoken content of TV and radio programs into text and posting it on its Web site, so that the hearing impaired could watch TV and also read the text on their home computers.

Although the law allows dubbing of programs if the copyright holder gives authorization, Japan Broadcasting Corp. (NHK), doesn't allow it in fears that doing so would open the company to potential litigation.

''We hold the copyrights for our programs, but we don't have the permission of individual performers or interviewees to put their words in text form. We can't take responsibility if the text contains mistakes,'' an NHK official said.

Many commercial TV broadcasters, however, choose to forge ahead with subtitling in good conscience. One station official said, ''We can't flatly refuse requests for nonprofit activities that will benefit the disabled.''

Hiroaki Yamada, a lawyer who also has a hearing disability, says, ''Broadcasters aren't fairly addressing the needs of the disabled because they're overly concerned with that particular aspect.''

Broadcasters are encouraged to implement text display systems by the public management ministry, which is aiming for an across-the-board text display system by around 2007.

Last year, only 18.2 percent of NHK programs and 6.3 percent of five local networks' programs were subtitled.(IHT/Asahi: December 19,2002)

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