25 March 2013
Over the years we’ve seen heaps of great television personalities on our screens. But what we haven’t seen are the one in five New Zealanders who have a disability.
These are the opening words of a new campaign that aims to to lobby broadcasters, ad agencies, talent agencies and the media to drive an increase in the visibility of disabled people on our television screens.
The More Diversity on Screen campaign is an initiative of Diversityworks Trust. It is the second phase of a project, Unique Extras, that promotes the talent of people with disability.
Trust Executive Director Philip Patston, who spent 15 years performing as a comedian with roles on Shortland Street, Pulp Comedy and Spin Doctors, says audiences are missing out. “We’ve seen a growing representation of gender, cultural and sexual diversity on our television screens. However audiences are still missing out on the one in five of us who live with the unique experience of disability,” Patston says.
A recent scan of major television channels conducted by the Trust showed that, in nearly 950 hours of content shown on channels One, 2, 3, Four. Prime and Maori Television in one week, five hours featured disabled characters, actors or presenters. Of these five hours only half an hour was not in prime time viewing (5.30pm-9.30pm).
Some advertising showed disabled people, but only in the context of charity and fundraising.
Representation of disabled people was included in the weekly documentary series Attitude, reality outdoors series Gone Fishin’ (whose presenter and producer Graeme Sinclair uses a wheelchair) and overseas series Glee, Packed to the Rafters, and Coronation Street.
Patston says he is optimistic about these statistics. “With TV being such a huge influence in society these days, it’s great that most representation is in prime time. Our challenge is to increase the number of hours and the number of local productions depicting disabled people.
“A key objective is to raise awareness and understanding of disability by bringing images of disabled people engaging in regular activities to the screens of New Zealanders. We want to make it commonplace to see disabled people in the background of scenes in TV series or in advertisements.”
The scan also showed that, over a week, channels One, 2 and 3 captioned a total of 425 hours of content for Deaf audiences, while 19.5 hours of content, on channels One and 2, were audio described for blind audiences.
Maori Television are supporting the campaign by airing an animated commercial free of charge. The commercial asks the public to visit morediversity.org.nz to support the cause.
A survey of television viewers and members of the industry will also be conducted over the next three months.
The More Diversity on Screen campaign is supported by Think Differently, a Government social change campaign to encourage and support a fundamental shift in attitudes and behaviour towards disabled people.
For more information
Diversityworks Trust Inc
p 09 976 4830
m 021 764 837