Repealing captioning red tape: Improving caption regulation

Monday, 22 September 2014 13:10pm

The next round of the Federal Government’s repeal red tape campaign is due to take place next month and is likely to include captioning issues. We have contacted a number of interest groups including Federal politicians with our recommendations on how repealing red tape could benefit the operation of the captioning elements of the Broadcasting Services Act.

Right hand holding open scissors over a line of red tape

In this series we examine the range of issues raised to help inform the discussion and debate. MAA strongly believes that reviewing regulations and legislation is essential to practical outcomes, but it should be carefully considered so that apparently simple solutions do not create unintended consequences.

In our document How you can repeal red tape and improve TV captioning, MAA has highlighted three issues which we believe are of particular importance, and if handled correctly could reduce red tape for broadcasters and provide better service for consumers.

The first issue is the levels of captioning on subscription television. Under current arrangements, each subscription television service must provide captioning on a certain number of channels, with the target varying depending on genre. The subscription service decides which of its channels will meet the caption targets, but does not have to announce this until after the end of each financial year. This means that consumers do not know how much will be captioned on channels before they purchase a subscription package, and there is no way of checking whether channels are meeting obligations. MAA believes the targets should be announced upfront.

The second issue is reporting. There has recently been discussion about eliminating the need for broadcasters to report on the levels of captioning they have achieved each year. MAA strongly believes that reporting requirements should be maintained. They provide certainty for consumers, and ensure that all channels are playing by the rules.

The third issue is caption quotas. Quotas for subscription television are based on a 24-hour day, primary channels must caption 100% of programs between 6am and midnight, but the multichannels (like ABC2, SBS2, 7Mate, Go and Eleven) only have to caption repeats which were previously captioned on a primary channel. This is very confusing for consumers (while it’s also virtually impossible for anyone to keep track of repeats). MAA believes that all quotas should be based on a 24-hour day.

Further instalments in this series will take a closer look at these issues and how they are managed.

'How you can repeal red tape and improve TV captioning' is available for download:


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