The multichannels (such as ABC2, SBS2, 7Mate, Go! and Eleven) were originally exempted from the captioning rules that apply to primary channels after broadcasters argued that they were new services which could only be seen by viewers with digital receivers, and were not yet profitable. Instead, the only programs that need to be captioned on them are repeats that were originally captioned on the primary channel of the same network.
This is a requirement that is essentially impossible for the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) to enforce. There is no single database that records which programs were screened on which channels, and whether they were captioned or not. Programs move around all the time, from primary channels to multichannels, and from subscription television to free-to-air television.
In our document How you can repeal red tape and improve TV captioning, Media Access Australia recommends that the repeat requirement should be scrapped, although this should only be done on the condition that it is replaced with a caption quota based on a 24-hour day. This would simplify broadcasters’ reporting requirements, as they would no longer have to keep track of repeat programs and whether they were previously captioned or not..
The introduction of such a quota system should lead to little or no reduction in the number of repeats captioned on multichannels. This is because broadcasters (and their caption providers) keep copies of all caption files once they have been created, and they will always use these to fulfil quotas before they have programs captioned from scratch.
'How you can repeal red tape and improve TV captioning' is available for download:
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