5 September 2023
Increased Access to Live Leaders’ Debates Secured for the Deaf Community and NZSL Users
Access for the Deaf community to view TVNZ 1’s three live debates for the 2023 General Election has been secured with the announcement that NZ On Air will provide funding to Deaf Aotearoa to provide New Zealand Sign Language (NZSL) interpreters.
The NZ On Air funding will come from the $10m additional funding allocated to NZ On Air in Budget 2023 to better serve under-represented audiences.
TVNZ 1 will broadcast two Leaders’ Debates between Labour and National on 19 September and 12 October, and the Multi-Party Debate on 5 October. All three debates will be broadcast live on Kordia Ch200 in a reverse Picture-in-Picture format, with the NZSL interpreter in full screen, and the political leaders and moderator being shown in the smaller Picture-in-Picture, providing the Deaf community and NZSL users with clear access to the debates in NZSL.
In 2017, Deaf Aotearoa’s NZSL interpreting service, iSign, produced a 24-hour delayed translation of the final leaders’ debate. In 2020, iSign, with Deaf Aotearoa funding the interpreters and support team, and TVNZ providing the production capability, interpreted both major party leaders’ debates and the multi-party debate via Kordia’s pop-up channel.
“This is a really important part of our mahi and our remit as a funding agency,” says Cameron Harland, NZ On Air Chief Executive. “We already support accessibility of content for Deaf, hard of hearing, blind, deafblind, low-vision and vision-impaired New Zealanders, with the provision of captioning and audio description services on local broadcast and on demand platforms via our annual funding of Able.”
“But we are happy to be able to provide funding to Deaf Aotearoa for this as it not only further supports an official language of Aotearoa New Zealand but will also allow another level of access and active participation in a core aspect of our democratic process.”
Lachlan Keating, Chief Executive of Deaf Aotearoa, says they are really pleased to have the financial support from NZ On Air. “It helps immensely with ensuring the Deaf community has full access to the Leaders’ Debates and can participate in the elections better informed of each party’s key messages and priorities. The iSign team have been planning and preparing for the election debates for several months now and we are looking forward to again bringing this access to the Deaf community.”
TVNZ says the NZSL versions of the three leaders’ debates will be available on TVNZ+ following the broadcast as well as Deaf Aotearoa’s own website for on demand viewing.
TVNZ’s Executive Producer for Election Coverage, Carol Hirshfeld, says “producing an NZSL version of TVNZ 1’s live Debates offers our Deaf community a vital way to fully engage with the democratic process in the lead up to the 2023 General Election. We’re pleased to provide our production expertise once again to this important kaupapa.”