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March 21, 2004

TV stations insult deaf viewers

From: Sydney Morning Herald - Sydney,New South Wales,Australia - Mar 21, 2004

By Matthew Benns

The Sun-Herald

They are so out of context and ridiculous that they bring a wry smile to even the most tired lips.

But botched captions that run along the bottom of television screens are not so funny when you rely on them as your main source of information for what is happening in the world.

Captions that have appeared on regional television stations across the country in the past year include one that read: "Tonight, Cathy Freeman runs out of steam, announcing her retirement" while the picture showed police officers in front of a drugs haul.

Another howler read: "They died together ... now they're buried together ... mates at rest" in front of the share prices on the news.

Now the organisation representing people with a hearing impairment or who are deaf, The Deafness Forum of Australia, is calling on the Federal Government to tackle sub-standard captions.

"There is legislation in place to ensure that Australians who have a hearing impairment or are deaf can watch television, without feeling like second-class citizens," said forum chief executive Brian Rope.

"While the major metropolitan stations are using professional organisations to deliver caption services on programs, including live events, the regional stations are taking shortcuts and failing to meet the accepted standards.

"The regionals are attempting to generate their own captions on a limited number of programs, resulting in horrendous lag behind the actual dialogue and some pretty average attempts at spelling. Quite frankly, it's an insult."

Australia has 4 million hearing-impaired people who rely on captions for their news and information.

The Deafness Forum will be running a roadshow, starting in Cairns tomorrow, to highlight their plight.

"It's great that we have legislation in place to help the many Australians with hearing difficulties, but it is not being delivered properly," Mr Rope said.

"Regional Australians are being cut off from the rest. They don't have genuine access to the entertainment and information that others do, and they're switching off.

"They rightly feel that poor captions are worse than no captions at all."

Copyright © 2004. The Sydney Morning Herald.