Policy & Legislation

Australia urged to ease copyright restrictions on accessible books

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On  World Book Day, the Australian Government has been called on to ease the copyright restrictions which reduce the number of books that are available to blind, vision impaired and print disabled readers.

Around the world copyright law, which protects the rights of authors, has inadvertently worked to restrict the number of publications which can be reproduced in braille and other alternative formats. The World Blind Union estimates that just 1-7% of all books published are made available to blind readers.


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University entrance now possible for blind students in China

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Thanks to a change in regulation, blind and vision impaired students in China will be given access to mainstream higher education.

The Chinese government has released regulations stating that the national university entrance exam must be made available in Braille and electronic formats. Prior to this, these students were unable to attend mainstream universities, which drastically reduced their chances of employment and equal participation in society.


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Results of our survey on multichannel captioning

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A survey conducted by Media Access Australia has found that levels of captioning on commercial multichannels, which include 7Two, Go! and One, remain below 50 per cent.

The survey looked at programs screened between 6am and midnight from 5 to 11 April 2014. During that period, the highest captioning percentage recorded on a commercial multichannel was 57 per cent on the Nine network’s Gem, while the lowest was 23 per cent on the Ten network’s One.

By contrast, captioning on the ABC’s three multichannel’s, ABC News 24, ABC2 and ABC3, stood at between 96 and 100 per cent.


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ACMA grants subscription TV caption exemptions

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The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) has granted caption exemptions to three subscription TV suppliers, Telstra Pay TV, Optus Vision Media and Fetch TV. 

Under theBroadcasting Services Act, the ACMA has the power to grant exemption or target reduction orders to television services if providing captions for them would cause ‘unjustifiable hardship’.


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Measuring caption quality: our white paper

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Media Access Australia today released a white paper entitled Caption Quality: International approaches to standards and measurement. It focuses on issues surrounding the live captioning of TV programs, the difficulties in measuring caption quality effectively, and some of the solutions that have been proposed. 

The white paper, which is the first in a planned series, was written by our Project manager for television, Chris Mikul, and sponsored by Red Bee Media Australia.


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ACMA given more discretion to investigate complaints

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The Australian Media and Communications Authority (ACMA) is to be given greater discretion about whether to investigate complaints under the Broadcasting Services Act, including complaints related to television captioning. 

The change is one of the Federal Government’s ‘Repeal Day’ package of reforms to cut red tape which were announced yesterday. A spokesperson for the ACMA said, “This amendment will allow the ACMA to take no action on complaints that are, for example, misconceived, trivial, stale or inappropriately divert the ACMA’s resources and the resources of broadcasters.”


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ACMA releases community safeguards report

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The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) has released its report on the ‘Contemporary community safeguards inquiry’ it conducted last year, which explored matters that should be addressed in broadcasting industry codes of practice.

The report states that the aim of the inquiry was to ‘ensure that codes of practice are fit for purpose in a converging media environment’. Prior to the inquiry. the ACME had identified seven concepts including ‘access’ which are relevant to broadcasting codes of practice, and one of the questions asked in the issues paper was ‘Should the concept of “access” be relevantly included as a guiding core principle?’

In their submissions to the inquiry, Free TV, SBS and the Australian Subscription Television and Radio Association (ASTRA) all argued that there was no longer any need for captioning matters to be included in broadcasting codes, as these were now covered by comprehensive legislative obligations.

In its submission, Media Access Australia argued that captioning provisions in codes of practice are still significant in reinforcing the important role that captions play in people’s lives. They also cover four essential areas which are not covered by the caption obligations found in the Broadcasting Services Act. These are:

  • Ensure that closed captioning is clearly indicated in program guides.
  • Exercise due care in broadcasting closed captioning, and monitor closed captioning transmissions.
  • Provide adequate advice to relevant viewers if scheduled closed captioning cannot be transmitted.
  • When broadcasting emergency, disaster or safety announcements, provide essential information visually wherever practicable.

The ACMA’s report concluded that ‘This is an example of where code provisions may be helpful in complementing legislative obligations for as long as the information is of value, does not duplicate existing provisions and allows for technological and other developments.’

The ACMA also stated that ‘At the outset, the inquiry was expected to culminate in specific guidelines for future codes of practice reviews. However, the ACMA has now decided to defer further work on the inquiry and to publish this report, so that the evidence it captures can immediately inform the broader conversation about the future of broadcasting regulation in Australia, as well as the industry code reviews due to be undertaken.’

The issues paper, submissions to the inquiry and the consolidated report can all be downloaded from the Contemporary community safeguards page on the ACMA’s website.


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European Union legislates for web accessibility

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The European Parliament has passed a law to improve the accessibility of information on government websites in European Union member countries. This will give millions of people enhanced access to vital information and services.

he draft law — which was approved by 593 votes to 40, with 13 abstentions — requires all European Union (EU) member countries to ensure that all websites managed by public sector bodies are fully accessible to elderly people and those with a disability.

News alert taxonomy: 

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Free TV Australia requests an end to caption reporting requirements

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In a submission to the Department of Communications, Free TV Australia, the organisation which represents Australian free-to-air broadcasters, has requested that broadcasters no longer be required to report annually on compliance with caption quotas and caption quality standards.

In November 2013, the Minister for Communications, Malcolm Turnbull, wrote to organisations within the communications sector asking for advice on where regulation could be streamlined or removed. The compliance reporting requirements that Free TV is objecting to were included in the Broadcasting Services Act as part of a package of amendments relating to captioning passed in June 2012.


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US regulator introduces new caption quality rules

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The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in the USA voted unanimously on 20 February to approve new, comprehensive rules to ensure that closed captioning on TV is of the highest possible quality.

The new rules follow years of lobbying by Deaf and hearing impaired TV viewers and their advocates, including a July 2004 petition filed by several groups including Telecommunications for the Deaf “to establish additional enforcement mechanisms to better implement the captioning rules, and to establish captioning quality standards to ensure high quality and reliable closed captioning”. The petition resulted in 1,600 submissions to the FCC.


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