RTÉ to broadcast signed anthem in full

Members of the deaf community and sign language users protesting outside RTE studios today. Photo: Sam Boal/RollingNews.ie

RTÉ has agreed to broadcast in the full the signed version of the National Anthem before Sunday’s All-Ireland senior football final.

The on-pitch performance will be simulcast on RTÉ News Now and will also be reflected in RTÉ’s live pre-match coverage on RTÉ2, the state broadcaster said.

RTÉ executives confirmed the plans at a meeting with members of the Irish Deaf Society today following a series of protests by members of the deaf community outside RTÉ studios in Dublin, Cork, Limerick, and Waterford.

The protests were sparked by RTÉ’s coverage of an Irish Sign Language (ISL) version of Amhrán na bhFiann before the All Ireland hurling final earlier this month and of an ISL interpreter during the Pope’s visit last weekend.

Deaf campaigners were furious after images of the first public performance of the anthem in ISL before the All-Ireland featured onscreen for just a few seconds.

Activist Micheál Kelliher said that while a sign language interpreter attending the Pope’s meeting with Taoiseach Leo Varadkar at Dublin Castle on Saturday was visible on screen at times, he was too far from TV cameras to be seen clearly by deaf viewers at home.

“Pope Francis talked about a more equal society, but Deaf ISL users were excluded from this event,” said Mr Kelliher.

“Deaf people pay the full television licence fee. But the percentage of programming transmitted with onscreen ISL interpretation is only around 3%.

"There is no special provision for the televising of occasions of national importance.”

An online petition urging RTÉ to broadcast the full ISL version of the anthem before Sunday’s All-Ireland, signed by more than 4,000 people, was presented to RTÉ after today's protests.

However, in a statement later, RTÉ said that, when covering the national anthem during All-Irelands, it seeks to “reflect the occasion in its totality to our entire audience” by capturing a range of images, including of the President, An Taoiseach, both sets of supporters, players, and their management teams, the stadium (including aerial images), the band, the referee, and match officials, as well as the ISL signer provided by the GAA.

“The arrangements now in place will ensure that viewers who wish to watch ISL signing of the national anthem in full, throughout its two-minute duration, are accommodated,” it said.

“RTÉ will also promote this addition to its coverage across its services in advance of Sunday’s live broadcast.”

RTÉ News Now is on Saorview, Virgin Media, Sky and Eir, as well as online and on the RTÉ News Now App (Apple and Android).

RTÉ said it takes full responsibility for the ISL signing that its viewers experience and that using the already established approach of a broadcast-trained professional Irish Language Signer ensures optimum broadcasting standards are upheld.

“This is in line with the approach taken by a wide range of broadcasters,” it said.

“Live signing, as incorporated by organisers into many events, is often very difficult to capture satisfactorily for home viewers and RTÉ has been looking at a better solution for live signing for some time, in addition to the live subtitling provided as standard.”

There are an estimated 5,000 Deaf ISL users in Ireland today but activists say there are another estimated 40,000 hearing people who use ISL regularly to communicate with their family and friends.

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