High compliance in TV captioning during FY 2015–16… but more needs to be done.

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Tuesday, 3 January 2017 15:52pm

At last, some good news on the captioning front. The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) reported in late December 2016 of a high level of compliance with captioning targets during the 2015-2016 financial year. However, their reporting period did not cover the back end of last year which saw multiple captioning issues emerge on the ABC and other networks, which proves more work needs to be done.

Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA)

Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA)

ACMA advised on 21 December 2016 that TV services reported increased captioning in 2015–16, with compliance results reflecting the continued efforts by television services to meet, and in some cases exceed, their captioning target obligations.

Subscription TV services (655 services and 144 unique channels in total) broadcast 2.62 million hours of captioned programs in 2015–16. This was an increase of 89,794 hours of captioned content compared to the captioning level in 2014–15.

Approximately 99.4% of subscription television services met their captioning targets and 65.3% exceeded the target. The captioning target for each category of subscription TV services increases by five percent each year until the target reaches 100%.

In the 2015–16 FY, the captioning for subscription TV services of total transmission time ranged from a very low target of 10% for music services, up to 80% for most movie services.

Free-to-air television broadcasters provided 590,000 hours of captioned programs on their primary services (95 channels in total) between the hours of 6 am and midnight during the 2015–16 FY. This is an increase of 5,585 hours when compared to the same period in 2014–15.

Captioned programs made up 99.67% of the total hours of all non-exempt programs broadcast between 6 am and midnight on free-to-air television broadcasters’ primary television channels – up from 99.63% in 2014–15.

ACMA reported that all of the TV services that fell short of meeting captioning target obligations in 2015–16 have taken appropriate steps to prevent similar issues happening again. Such steps have included replacing faulty equipment, improving procedures and undertaking staff training.

However, the actual percentage targets set, as well as the number of exempt programs, remain contentious issues. And another big issue is captioning on Subscription Video On Demand (SVOD) – commonly called ‘streaming’ channels such as Stan, Presto and NetFlix – as these services are not bound to any captioning percentage targets. ACMA recommends that “if captioning is important to you, check whether it is supported by your preferred SVOD provider and, if so, ask how to turn it on for your registered device(s).”

For more detailed information, see the Free-to-air television - annual captioning compliance results 2015–16 and Subscription television - annual captioning compliance results 2015–16. For further information on ACMA’s reporting obligations see the Captioning statutory review webpage.


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