ACMA releases review of captioning rules

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Wednesday, 21 June 2017 09:56am

The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) has just released the final report into its statutory review of captioning rules. While ACMA, as the independent statutory authority, does not recommend specific legislative amendments in the report it has just tendered, it has made three key findings.

Image of ACMA logo

ACMA logo

ACMA requested submissions from the public in June 2016, and the issues it looked at during the review included captioning rules for multichannels, the framework for granting captioning exemptions and target reductions to broadcasters, along with the complexity of rules for captioning on subscription television services.

The findings of ACMA’s report include:

·         It notes that consumers are concerned about the fact that the normal captioning rules do not apply to multichannels. While acknowledging that extending these rules to multichannels (which broadcasters oppose) would increase access, it states that “the associated benefits would need to be carefully measured against the additional costs”.

·         It acknowledges a consensus that the captioning rules for subscription television are too complex, and supports proposals to simplify them.

·         It believes that it would be beneficial to review the framework for granting captioning exemptions and target reduction orders to television services.

What’s more, ACMA has also committed to improving captioning resources on its own website, including the production of new information videos.

In its submission to the review, MAA argued that the captioning provisions in the Broadcasting Services Act which most urgently require amendment are those covering multichannels. The multichannels (ABC2, 7Two, 9Gem, Eleven, etc) are currently exempt from the rules that apply to primary channels – the only programs that are required to be captioned on these channels are repeats of programs previously captioned on the network.

Media Access Australia (MAA) has proposed the introduction of incremental captioning targets for the multichannels, starting at 40%. MAA commends ACMA’s support for a review of the captioning exemption and target reduction process.

MAA’s submission to the review was guided in large part by Chris Mikul, MAA’s Specialist Advisor – Captioning and Audio Description, who is one of Australia’s most experienced experts in the field. Like other submissions sent to ACMA, it emphasised the importance of properly defining the concept of ‘unjustifiable hardship’, which is one of the criteria under which the ACMA can grant exemptions.

All the submissions to the review, and the full report, can be downloaded from the Captioning statutory review section of ACMA’s website. For more information on television captioning regulations, see Media Access Australia’s Policy and regulations page.


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