Subscription TV

In June 2012, the Broadcasting Services Act 1992 (Cth) (BSA) was amended to include caption quotas for subscription television for the first time.

Prior to this, the introduction of captions and increased levels of captioning on subscription TV have been driven by agreements brokered by the Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC). In exchange for agreeing to provide minimum levels of captioning, the AHRC had granted subscription TV providers from the provisions of the Disability Discrimination Act 1992 (Cth) (DDA). This process has now been superceded by the BSA amendments.

The requirements for subscription television set by the Australian Communications Media Authority (ACMA) are more complex than free-to-air television due to the larger numbers of channels involved and the breaking of down of channels into different genre categories.

The captioning requirements relate to the licensee which then applies the rules to cover the range of channels it offers. This can potentially lead to different captioning requirements for the same channel being offered by different license holders, depending on how many channels they have.

Captioning quotas – general subscription TV

While there are some exemptions, the basic requirements for captioned programming on subscription TV are:

Movie Channels

  • The first 6 movie channels must caption up to 75% by 1 July 2014
  • The next one must caption up to 55% by 1 July 2014
  • The remainder must caption up to 45% by 1 July 2014

General Entertainment

  • The first 18 general entertainment channels must caption up to 55% by 1 July 2014
  • The next 16 general entertainment channels must caption up to 45% by 1 July 2014
  • The remainder must caption up to 25% by 1 July 2014

News

News channels must caption up to 15% by 1 July 2014

Sports

Sports channels must caption up to 15% by 1 July 2014

Music

Music channels must caption up to 5% by 1 July 2014

For the purposes of calculating numbers of channels, the timeshift channels such as FX +2, Lifestyle +2 or high definition versions of channels such as Fox Sports 1 HD do not count as separate channels.

The subscription television caption requirements are measured against a 24-hour period whereas the free-to-air requirements are against an 18-hour period.

After July 2014 the quotas increase by 5 percentage points per year.

Captioning quotas – Foxtel

11 movie channels must caption:

  • 40% - 60% of programs in the year beginning 1 July 2012.
  • 50% - 70% of programs in the year beginning 1 July 2013.
  • 55% - 75% of programs in the year beginning 1 July 2014.

43 general entertainment channels must caption:

  • 15% - 40% of programs in  the year beginning 1 July 2012.
  • 20% - 50% of programs in the year beginning 1 July 2013
  • 25% - 55% of programs in the year beginning 1 July 2014.

Three news channels must caption:

  • 10% of programs in the year beginning 1 July 2012.
  • 12.5% of programs in the year beginning 1 July 2013.
  • 15% of programs in the year beginning 1 July 2014.

Seven sports channels must caption:

  • 10% of programs in the year beginning 1 July 2012.
  • 12.5% of programs in the year beginning 1 July 2013.
  • 15% of programs in the year beginning 1 July 2014.

Six music channels must caption:

5% of programs from 1 July 2012.

Exemption applications

Licensees may apply for an exemption from the captioning requirements for a period of 1-5 years. This exemption application may be for the whole quota or a reduction in the required quota. This is a public process and the ACMA publishes the applications online and calls for public comment before making its final determination.

Subscription television licensees may also apply for exemptions from having to caption any more than 11 movie channels, 43 general entertainment channels, 7 sports channels, 6 music channels, or 3 news channels before 1 July 2022. The number of channels that are permitted to be exempt under this formula reduces between 2015 and 2022.  In the first year of operation of the new regulations, the ACMA received and granted a number of exemptions to subscription television licensees.

Nominating and reporting against captioning requirements

Subscription television licensees are not required to nominate the channels that are covered by particular captioning levels at the start of the financial year.  Instead, they must inform the ACMA before the end of the financial year as to which channels are covered by the captioning requirements for the past financial year (this could be provided on 30 June covering the previous year).

The licensee must provide a report to the ACMA outlining detailing its compliance with the captioning requirements within 90 days of the end of the financial year. ACMA must then publish this report on its website.

Subscription Television Codes of Practice

Section 2.4 of the Subscription Broadcast Television Codes of Practice requires that:

Where closed captioning programming is made available it will be clearly identified with program schedule information provided to the press and in program guides.

When a Licensee introduces closed captioned programming, or extends the range of programs captioned, it will consult with organisations representing deaf or hearing impaired and organisations specialising in providing closed captioning.


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