Public service broadcasters are tasked with serving the population in their country, often with a charter to define their obligations. On July 15th 2013, Ireland’s national broadcaster, RTÉ, held a free public lecture at University College Dublin, “Public Service Broadcasting: Innovating for the Needs of Tomorrow’s Audiences”, with “normalising difference” being one stated topic.
RTE’s Subtitling Service
With RTÉ’s track record in live-captioning its formal TV access meetings for viewers who are deaf, logic predicted that this public consultation would be live-captioned, particularly with its theme of innovating for future needs.
Disappointingly, RTÉ’s Audience Council advised that live captions were not arranged for the event. Instead, sign-interpreters were booked. What about the deaf TV viewers who do not sign? How were they to follow the lecture?
In Ireland just 1,700 people use sign-language (Census 2011), while over 800,000 seniors and people with hearing issues rely on subtitles to access TV services. Both groups pay TV licence fees. Live captions would benefit the larger group at this public lecture, since they use subtitles to watch TV.
Benefits of Live Captions
Research shows that when events are live-captioned for people with hearing issues, up to 20% of attendees benefit from the visual access to information. Live-captioning also delivers a full transcript of the meeting’s discussions, for future summary in industry briefings, press releases, and annual reports.
Access For All
We would ask RTÉ that for future, public Audience Council lectures, live-captions be provided together with sign language interpreters. This way, the lecture will be 100% accessible to everyone who is deaf or hard of hearing, plus attendees for whom English is another language, or who learn visually.
Digital hearing-devices mean English is now the first language for many children and people with hearing issues. Captions will meet their access needs, while serving RTÉ’s quoted public-service ambitions of “normalising difference”, as is mentioned in The Times piece about The Audience Council.
- RTE’s Public Service Broadcasting Charter (2004)
- Captioning: A Lifeline At Conferences and Seminars
- We asked for access in English – where are our captions?
- TV Subtitling Explained – Interview With RTE
- Rabbitte publishes 5 year review of public service broadcasting
- Time to end obsolete funding model for public service broadcasting