Monday, January 23, 2012

Let Us Go Deaf!

Call it my sickness or obsession, but a day for me isn't complete without reading a bunch of  about 20 newspapers. Today, one of them, published from Bhutan, caught my eye with a headline: Deaf Nation puts Bhutan in it's travel map. Curious, I was soon digging into it. Turns out, Deaf Nation is a community of deaf people. Founded in 2003, - the website of the community calls itself "a trusted one-stop center for deaf and hard of hearing news." The site, among others, has travel videos shot on different locations across the world - all in the sign language. 

Its both sad and stupid that for over ten hundred thousand strong deaf community, not a single TV channels has an iota of space. Photo courtesy: Loghi Dei Progetti

As I toured the site, I was suddenly reminded of our good old state broadcaster Door Darshan (DD); every Sunday, on DD there used to be a half-an hour news show for people with hearing problems. As a kid, I always found it very amusing, to hear a newscaster reading the headlines of the week and then to watch another newscaster translating the same in hand movements that seemed both strange and mysterious.

I have not watched DD channel on a Sunday for ages and don't know if the show still continues. But what I know, and realized as a shock, that out of the 200+ Satellite and cable channels that we have today, not a single one has a single show for deaf people!

If I go dissecting a bit, we have a bouquet of niche channels on every possible theme:  news, entertainment, sports, food, fashion, environment, music, religion, children and history. In some categories like news and 'infotainment', we have more than nearly a hundred channels - including the regional ones. But not one of them has a minute of airtime to spare for deaf people!

Now, what is our deaf population? Unfortunately, there is no credible list that gives you a fixed number. But it is estimated that in every 1,000 Indians, 1.2 people are deaf. Now, since we are 1.7 billion people, the number of deaf people should be around 10,000,000. That's almost like the total population of a small nation. Now imagine an entire nation being denied any space on television. 

What would it take our TV channels to change this? I don't think it would cost them much, especially media houses like Z, Star and Sony that have bought a lot of bandwidth,  and to utilize it, have launched a huge number of channels, half of which nobody watches. On those channels, they keep playing ridiculously old American sitcoms like Full House - made when May Kate and Ashley Olsen were 3 year old! What would they lose by introducing a show for the deaf people that would be truly groundbreaking? They can take some tapes from one of their own channels and 'dub' it in the sign language. 

I believe it is possible. What I doubt is, our television industry is ready to be that humane yet. 

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1 comment:

Grace said...

Hi Stella,
awesome post. I completely agree, there could be way more in terms of Deaf programming. Not just that, but close captioning could be a lot better - even Netflix doesn't have enough CC if you ask me. Have you seen Switched at Birth (an American show on ABC family) - it's a popular show that includes Deaf culture and ASL, and Marlee Matlin (an Oscar-winning deaf actress) is in it.
I'm hard of hearing and I wrote a post about it a little while back:
hope you'll check it out :)