ACMA releases subscription TV captioning compliance reports

Wednesday, 11 June 2014 13:44pm

The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) today released captioning compliance reports for subscription television services for the 2012-2013 financial year. These show about 99 per cent of services met their annual captioning targets, while a quarter of them (amounting to 37 channels) exceeded their targets by over 20 per cent.

The channels which most exceeded their captioning requirements include the Cartoon Network, the Disney Channel, ESPN, Fox News and Foxtel movie channels

The report found that some channels failed to meet captioning requirements. Three licensees, Fetch TV, Fox Sports Venues and Optus Vision Media, failed to provide captioning on some channels, submitting to the ACMA that they were unable to do so. Fetch TV and Fox Sports Venues have now ceased to provide the channels in question, while Optus Vision Media has been granted a captioning exemption order for the Ovation channel.

Five licence holders were found to be in breach for failing to provide captions on the high definition (HD) simulcasts of ESPN programs which were captioned for standard definition (SD) broadcast. A technical solution to this problem was introduced in October 2013.

The remaining breaches were for repeat programs which were not captioned, including repeats on Fox sports channels and Fuel TV which were initially broadcast with live captions. Fox Sports Australia has told the ACMA that it is working on a technical solution to this issue which should be implemented in July 2014.

“Overall, this is a terrific result,” said Chris Mikul, Media Access Australia’s project manager for television. “It mirrors the situation in the UK where many subscription channels provide far more captioning than they have to, and demonstrates the importance of having rigorous reporting requirements.”

Amendments to the Broadcasting Services Act in 2012 introduced caption quotas for subscription TV. A certain number of channels in each genre must be captioned, with the caption targets varying according to the genre. Under these rules, service providers like Foxtel can decide which of their channels will fulfil these quotas, but they do not have to report on this until the end of each financial year. Media Access Australia has argued that quotas should be announced before the reporting period, so that consumers will know how much captioning they can expect on each channel.

While Media Access Australia welcomes the publication of the first compliance report, we note that it comes almost a year after the 12-month reporting period ended.

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