Lack of records hampers captioning complaint decision

Monday, 21 October 2013 12:13pm

The broadcasting regulator, the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) was unable to make a judgement on a complaint about delayed captions on Da Vinci’s Demons on FX+2 due to a lack of records.

The complaint alleged that the captions were displaying considerably behind the dialogue on the +2 hours version of the program broadcast on 4 May 2013 on Foxtel. The investigation by the ACMA showed that although Foxtel was able to demonstrate that the original broadcast of the program two hours earlier was error-free and that it had no internal log of any problems on the plus 2 hours version, it did not have a copy of the program as transmitted and therefore could not show that there was no error.

In its report (docx 790 KB) the ACMA noted that “the details recorded related to issues with streams, continuity of captioning whilst on-air, failure to synchronise clock and reference signals to captioning tracks and failures with playout and delay servers. This monitoring would establish whether the broadcast platform was capable of carrying caption information however it does not monitor the presence or timing of captions on a particular program.”

The ACMA was unable to make a finding as it could not view the program to assess whether there were any captioning defects or not. However, Foxtel has said that it will not include this broadcast of Da Vinci’s Demons in its required captioning quota.

The ACMA also noted that Foxtel has commenced implementation of a recording system for all of its captioning channels and this is expected to be implemented by the end of 2013.

Media Access Australia CEO, Alex Varley, said, “This investigation shows how important it is to have recordings of programs to verify whether captions were of an acceptable quality or not. Unfortunately in this case there was no record and no finding can be made, but the complaint has led to an improvement in Foxtel’s approach to this, matching the processes that are used by the free-to-air broadcasters.”

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