The proposed amendments, which were introduced into parliament in October, include:
- Removing compliance reporting for free-to-air television so broadcasters no longer have to publicly report that they are meeting their captioning requirements.
- More complex calculations for determining how much captioning sports channels should provide.
- Watering down measurement and regulation of caption quality.
- Canceling a scheduled review of captioning regulations to be undertaken by the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) in 2015.
The submissions of the Australian Communications Consumer Action Network (ACCAN), Deaf Australia, the Deafness Forum, Deafness Council WA Inc, the Australian Federation of Disability Organisations, Media Access Australia and the Community and Public Sector Union all broadly reject the proposed amendments, with ACCAN and others noting that the amendments were introduced without proper consultation with consumers. Most state that the appropriate forum for reviewing the captioning regulations is the planned review in 2015.
Deaf Australia’s submission examines the proposal that compliance reporting be replaced by a system based on consumer complaints. It includes the results of a survey of its members conducted in November-December which shows 73% of respondents have never made a caption complaint and of those, 38% do not know who to complain to.
Free TV Australia, the Australian Subscription Television and Radio Association, Foxtel and SBS all broadly support the proposed amendments.
The Hon Susan Ryan AO, the Age and Disability Discrimination Commissioner, recommended that compliance reporting requirements be maintained, although options for simplifying and unifying regulations should be explored. Caption provider Ai-Media also recommends simplifying the compliance reporting requirements to make them more timely and transparent for consumers.
All 21 submissions can be downloaded from the Senate committee’s website. The committee is due to issue a report in February 2015.
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