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Parliament TV captions

Across New Zealand we take up the challenging issues facing the deaf and hearing-impaired communities.

Thousands of New Zealanders may choose not to vote in this year's election, as they continue to miss out on key information broadcast on Parliament TV. Over 700,000 New Zealanders have some type of hearing loss and many rely on captioning to access the same news as those individuals with full hearing.


At present, Parliament TV is providing an inadequate service that is in breach of equal, accessible rights to important information.

Parliament TV’s video captioning system for deaf and hearing-impaired viewers is not working to an acceptable standard for YouTube viewers. This is due to Parliament TV’s reliance on Automatic Captioning. Parliament TV provides live broadcasts from the House of Representatives and is made available online on YouTube as a webcast and on a selection of digital television channels.

Automatic Captioning works in a way that even if the YouTube uploader hasn't added captions to their video, YouTube may use speech recognition technology to automatically make captions available. Since these are automatically generated, the quality of the captions can vary from video to video.

The National Foundation for the Deaf CEO, Louise Carroll claims, 'currently the automatic captioning is not working to an acceptable standard and much of the text is jumbled and doesn’t make sense.'

The Automatic Captions can be easily edited on YouTube with the correct words changed to what they actually say. There are guide videos that instruct users how to implement this. The Foundation believes there is a lack of accountability and acknowledgement from the Government to do something about this incredibly silly situation.

A few years ago it was pointed out to John Key about automatic captioning and how dangerous it was. In one of the speeches he gave, the automatic captioning said he was going to war against China which of course was incorrect. John Key’s personal videos on YouTube are now captioned correctly (when he does caption them), but it needs to go further and be done properly for all content on Parliament TV, in the opinion of The National Foundation for the Deaf.

‘While this is currently a very significant problem, it is one easily fixed and easily managed and moderated’ says Louise Carroll. It does not take a rocket scientist to correct this situation and it is unfathomable to us that politicians, in an election year, don’t seem to want accurate information out there.'

As it is election year, The National Foundation for the Deaf sees it as vital that these captions are completed to the highest standard to service the 700,000 deaf or hearing impaired New Zealanders, especially since many of them are eligible to vote.

'It seems that the government are doing a disservice to the not insignificant numbers of deaf and hard of hearing people of New Zealand.

'They are taxpayers too. They are voters as well,' says Louise Carroll.

'Imagine if you could not access key national information? We need the support and we need it now.'

Instead of accessing all of the information that is available, deaf and hearing-impaired people are forced to watch what is being automatically captioned for the Parliament TV channel, which is often factually incorrect and sometimes gravely misleading.

One example of a recent parliament session has captions showing the Prime Minister introduced as the Right Honourable Primus, the Honourable David Cunliffe introduced as the Honourable Divert, and the Speaker of the house introduced as the Spigot.