Toby Dawson: Is it time for Scotland to have its own Deaf TV programme?

Posted on October 2, 2016

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Here are some questions that I’d like to ask all of you, and this is one of them – “Is it time for Scotland to have its own Deaf programme?”

But before you answer my questions – let me explain a few things firstly – I think that even though the Deaf community may disagree on certain things – such as the outcome of the EU referendum – the Deaf community is probably unanimously in favour of removing barriers in their daily lives.

It is unmistakable that BBC See Hear is a fantastic achievement in television because they are pivotal in the field of the media world by removing barriers and providing accessible information in BSL.

You could even say that BBC’s See Hear is the mother of Deaf Television in the British Isles as they were the first Deaf TV programme and inspired countless of other Deaf TV programmes, giving Deaf people the chance to pursue a career in the media world – all of those things that I have mentioned may have taken a wee while longer if it wasn’t for See Hear.

I think it is absolutely undisputed that See Hear is an institution, it has even provided me with some good memories – I can remember how it was a surreal feeling watching my mum signing nervously on See Hear after being asked a question by Maggie Wooley, “MY MUM IS ON TV! WOW SHE IS SIGNING!” – I was even inspired by an interview from Clive Mason with an American person, and the guest spoke about how we Deaf people are actually the same as African Americans being oppressed, it made me feel that we are not alone in our struggle.

However, Scotland has changed, especially since having a devolved Parliament, and there’s very little doubt that the BSL community is jubilant that it is happening for self-explanatory reasons – the Scottish BSL Act in 2015!

Of course, there’s the Stormont Assembly in Northern Ireland considering a BSL / ISL Bill which also means that things are changing not just in Scotland but in other countries within the UK too.

I’m writing this from a Scottish perspective, and I do strongly believe that See Hear was created to break down barriers and provide accessibility for Deaf people in the UK. Unfortunately these days See Hear doesn’t get as much resources they used to get to provide a regular coverage of current affairs from all over the UK, we can clearly see the result because when See Hear is reporting on political issues such as the EU referendum, it is largely done from a Westminster perspective.

It has been happening for a few years now, but let me give the recent See Hear episode as an example – it didn’t mention how Northern Ireland and Scotland voted to stay in the EU, it didn’t mention how a Deaf Flemish Sign Language MEP, Helga Stevens who gave her backing to a Scottish MEP wanting Scotland to stay in the EU via a tweet.

I don’t know if See Hear would have ever reported this until I’m actually mentioning this – the Scottish Parliament is set to receive some powers over welfare such as DLA / PIP and that’s newsworthy in my opinion.

Of course, there’s the Scottish BSL Act, and that is something that should be reported regularly on TV in Scotland and elsewhere too.

I don’t think it would be meant as a disrespectful move if the BSL community gave their backing for a Scottish Deaf BSL TV programme because it is GIVING Scotland’s Deaf community an opportunity to spread the message around the world, and to tackle barriers which are place in Scotland via the media sector and to improve accessibility.

One of the biggest challenges in creating a regular Scottish Deaf BSL TV programme is that broadcasting is controlled from Westminster – since we are all under the same banner – BSL, the likes of Ofcom are saying that all current obligations are being met, and they can’t see any reason why the situation should be changed. (Readers may remember my recent article highlighting the lack of BSL interpretation on Scottish TV programmes)

Is the notion of one BSL community unintentionally creating barriers elsewhere?

Because, with the current state of Scottish programmes being shown on their channels – there is no BSL interpretation at all unless it’s shown all over the UK and no Deaf programmes on Scottish channels.

Toby Dawson is a deaf father of two, and is an enthusiastic student of Scottish history. Enjoys playing sports and he hopes to carry on as long as he can before old age sets in!

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