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Spark commits to include closed captioning on advertising and video content to improve digital inclusion for Aotearoa’s Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing community

Spark New Zealand today announced its commitment to include closed captioning on its audio-visual assets, including TV and digital advertisements, social media video content, and internal videos, to make them more accessible to the over 800,000 New Zealanders who identify as Deaf and Hard of Hearing [1].


The decision was inspired by a speech made by 16-year-old Hope Cotton at Spark’s ‘ALL IN’ digital equity event, held in July. Hope, who is deaf, has been a strong advocate for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing community who experience significant challenges accessing news, entertainment, and education due to a lack of accessibility on digital channels.


Jolie Hodson, Spark CEO says, “Our purpose at Spark is to help all of New Zealand win big in a digital world, but this isn’t possible if some of us can’t benefit from access to technology in the same way as the rest of us take for granted.


“We have had a long-term focus on improving digital equity in Aotearoa and have made significant progress by improving access and affordability through our not-for-profit broadband service Skinny Jump, and through the investments we make into the community through Spark Foundation. But we want to do more, and we know when our people are empowered to make change we can do some amazing things – and so we brought close to 2,000 Spark people together at our ALL IN event to learn more about the issue and to brainstorm new ways Spark could make a difference.


“We had six amazing rangatahi come and speak to us at that event – young people who had
experienced digital inequality themselves and were doing something about it. Hearing from Hope about how hard it can be for her to study, to enjoy a show, or to access key services, it was clear to us we needed to lift our game.


“Our commitment to include closed captioning on Spark’s audio-visual content created from this
point forward is just the first step in improving the accessibility of the products and services we create, and the communications we deliver. We know there are a wide range of accessibility issues that New Zealanders face, and we have more work underway to see how we can create more inclusive digital
environments in the future.”


Hope, who earlier this week presented a petition to Green MP Chloe Swarbrick at Parliament, is advocating for the Government to make closed captioning mandatory and is thrilled with Spark’s commitment.


"I am so honoured to be working with Spark towards building a more equitable digital landscape in New Zealand,” Hope says.


"Spark's decision to use closed captioning will make a real difference to the nearly one million New Zealanders who are Deaf, Neurodivergent or Hard of Hearing. This decision means they are making themselves more accessible to all Kiwis. Every person deserves the same access to information, and this move by Spark acknowledges this.


“When I presented to Spark so many of their people signed my petition, it was a game changer. My hope is that my petition will encourage other organisations to make their services more accessible, lead to legislative change, and help to create palpable change in the lives of Disabled New Zealanders.”




[1] The Spark Sport platform does not currently support closed captioning, meaning Spark Sport content is excluded from the commitment at this time while we investigate future options. Closed
Captioning is also currently unavailable on some third-party digital media platforms that Spark advertises on. For these platforms, Spark will commit to applying open captioning if this option is available.


Notes to editor

  • Spark is committing to closed captioning, rather than open captioning (closed captioning can be turned on and off by the viewer).
  • The commitment is to use closed captioning on all content moving forward and does not include
    retrospective captioning on historical content or content that is already in market.
  • ALL IN was an internal event for Spark people, to come together to learn more about digital equity, and the ways Spark can help bridge Aotearoa’s digital divide. The event was held at Spark Arena in Auckland and live-streamed to locations around the country.
  • To learn more about Hope Cotton’s petition please view it here.
  • Images and assets can be downloaded here

Althea Lovell

Corporate Relations Partner
+64 21 222 2992 |

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