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October 10, 2003

Deaf talkabout with Bob McCullough

From: Belfast Telegraph, UK - Oct 10, 2003

Signing in for local TV comedy

By Bob McCullough

"Give My Head Peace" is one of the most popular TV programmes in Northern Ireland and, recently, along with Majella McAteer of the BDA and John Carberry of the RNID, I was invited to join Terry Riley, Editor, See Hear, London, in a meeting with staff at the Blackstaff studio in Belfast to discuss format for a BBCNI screening of the programme on Friday, December 5.

Like Queen's University, the BBC has become aware of the need to include the views of disabled people when planning strategies, and, at this meeting, we were joined by BBCNI Secretary Mark Adair and Geraldine McCourt, Manager, Public Affairs.

Terry had brought his interpreter from London and we had a full and frank discussion on the most fitting way to make programmes like Give My Head Peace available to deaf viewers.

Is this best achieved by subtitles or sign language - or a combination of both?

Majella was asked about the possibility of organising a representative party of deaf people to view the action on December 5 and express their opinions, while John Carberry said he had heard good reports about the programme but, as it is not yet subtitled, was unable to comment. Apparently only 80% of TV programmes are subtitled and this is a sore point with many deaf.

I asked if the humour in Give My Head Peace was mostly verbal or did it have knock-about comedy like Laurel and Hardy. Associate producer Damon Quinn said it was a mixture of both and that they would not be put off by the presence of an interpreter; but Terry Riley said he felt the humour would be too subtle and quick to be signed effectively and subtitles might be the better medium.

Donna Traynor, presenter of Newsline, joined us for lunch and told us she had learned a few signs but was in no way expert in the language. Donna often presents the afternoon news alongside deaf presenters Raymond Abernethy and Mary Kyle and she joined the discussion on a potential training course for new signers and the possibility of moving the slot to a more suitable time.

Another member of the cast told us he had become enthusiastic about making TV more accessible to deaf people since the time his father, John McDowell, had been a teacher in Jordanstown Schools.

It was heart-warming to see the effort everyone at the BBC is making to try and make the medium more accessible and Terry sms'd me from London to say he was delighted at what the meeting had achieved for deaf people in Northern Ireland.

- As part of their 15th anniversary, the Northern Ireland Deaf Youth Association are organising a conference on Friday, October 24, from 10am to 1pm at the Odyssey, Belfast, with a dance by children, a drama, and an awards ceremony by John McCormick. Please contact Mrs Vanessa Butler, administrator, at 3 Foyle Street, Londonderry. BT48 6AL. Fax 028 7127 1978.

© 2003 Independent Digital (UK) Ltd