The state television station is to introduce a news crawl soon to help hearing-impaired people keep up-to-date with current affairs, Public Broadcasting Services’ chief executive officer, Anton Attard, said.
The news crawl will consist of text running along the bottom of the screen listing the main headlines. It was expected to be introduced within a few months during the 8 p.m. bulletin, he said.
Earlier this month, the opposition spokesman on the family, Justyne Caruana, criticised PBS for not giving enough consideration to the needs of people with disabilities and not using subtitles for the hard of hearing.
George Vella, a deaf person and former president of the Deaf Association, said a film without subtitles was a disappointment and waste of time for people like him. “I struggle a lot to understand people talking during a film, educational programme or series... Subtitles are helpful to link deaf people with the subject of media.
“Educational captioning and subtitling provide benefits to deaf people by granting them informative equal access to media. Subtitling needs money and it requires specific support to provide and stipulate this access,” he said.
Mr Attard said PBS was looking into the feasibility of having regular subtitles on all programmes aired on TVM. However, the fact was that this was costly because it needed specialised equipment and a team of people to write subtitles.
The state-funded station, which also depends on commercial advertising for revenue, would start by introducing the news crawl during its 8 p.m. news and, possibly, extend it to other bulletins, he said. The station already provides sign language interpretation during the 6 p.m. news.
The deaf won a small subtitle battle last November when two cinemas started showing films with subtitles a couple of times a month.
The need for subtitles in cinemas was highlighted through a survey carried out by Lithuanian student Ieva Lolat. She found that the 30 deaf people she interviewed craved more subtitles on local TV stations and cinemas so they too could follow the dialogue.
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