Progress of the Media Access Review recommendations

A number of recommendations for improved access to media for people with disabilities came out of the Media Access Review. This page provides an overview of their progress as at June 2011. We will continue to update this page as news of progress on these recommendations is released.

Recommendation 1—That the Government includes new captioning targets in the Broadcasting Services Act 1992, mandating 100 per cent captioning between 6.00 am and midnight on the primary television service provided by national broadcasters and commercial television broadcasters by 2014.

Recommendation 2—That the Government prescribes the sections of the Broadcasting Services Act 1992 that mandate captioning targets under subsection 47(2) of the Disability Discrimination Act 1992. The legislative amendments would result in anyone acting in direct compliance with the prescribed part of the Broadcasting Services Act 1992 no longer being subject to complaint under the Disability Discrimination Act 1992.

Recommendation 3—That the Government strengthens the Australian Communications and Media Authority’s powers to investigate complaints about television captioning matters and to require broadcasters to report annually on captioning levels.

Progress –Recommendations 1-3 are relatively simple legislative amendments which need to be drafted and passed by Parliament. Media Access Australia expects that these amendments will be tabled in Parliament in August at the latest.

Schedule 4, clause 38 of the Broadcasting Services Act 1992(Cth)provides for minimum captioning requirements for television broadcasters. At present, only television programs transmitted during prime viewing hours and television news or current affairs programs are required to be captioned, and only on the major channels. Digital multichannels will still only be required to caption those programs which have previously been broadcast with captions on a parent major channel.

Recommendation 4—That the Government includes captioning targets in the Broadcasting Services Act 1992 for subscription broadcasters, provided appropriate targets can be agreed in the first quarter of 2011.

Progress - Media Access Australia understands that the Government has been holding discussions with the Australian Subscription Television and Radio Association (ASTRA) to determine what these captioning targets should be, but has not released any proposed targets publicly. At present, ASTRA is appealing a decision by the Australian Human Rights Commission to reject ASTRA’s 2010 application for temporary exemption from the Disability Discrimination Act 1992 (Cth) on the grounds of insufficient levels of captioning at the Administrative Appeals Tribunal. Media Access Australia is a party to the appeal process and there is nothing to publicly report on at this point.

Recommendation 5—That the Government commissions a technical trial of audio description on the Australian Broadcasting Corporation in the second half of 2011, subject to funding approval.

Recommendation 6—That the Government gives further consideration to the introduction of progressive audio description requirements after the completion of the audio description trial and the receipt of technical advice from the Australian Communications and Media Authority on the results of the trial.

Progress – The 2011-12 Commonwealth Budget for the Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy did not include specific funding for the audio description trial on the ABC. Media Access Australia understands that appropriate funding is being sought elsewhere. The consideration of including audio description requirements will depend on the trial proceeding.

Recommendation 7—The Broadcasting Services Act 1992 be amended to include a reference to captions (for subscription and free-to-air television) of an ‘adequate quality’.

Progress – As with Recommendations 1-3, Media Access Australia expects the legislative amendment for captions to be of ‘adequate quality’ will be tabled in Parliament by August at the latest.

Recommendation 8—That the Australian Communications and Media Authority hosts captioning quality workshops, via a captioning committee, to develop criteria that the ACMA can use when assessing the quality of captions.

Progress – The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) has so far held five meetings of the Co-Regulatory Captioning Committee (CCC)—of which Media Access Australia is a member—including two since the publication of the Final Report. The CCC has so far developed draft criteria for ACMA’s use to determine the quality of captions which we understand is ready to be approved by the ACMA Board.

Recommendation 9—That the Government asks the Australian Association of National Advertisers to include requirements regarding the captioning of advertising content in its codes of practice. The requirements would have regard to (a) existing levels of captioning in advertising, (b) the commercial sensitivities for advertisers, especially in small advertising markets, and (c) the impact of any self-regulatory measures undertaken.

Progress – Media Access Australia no longer monitors captioning of commercial advertising. For information on Commonwealth, State, and Territory government policies, including their advertising policies, visit our Australian governments’ access policies page.

Recommendation 10—That people with disability should have access to emergency services when at home and outside of the home. The Government has committed to the establishment of an SMS emergency service for people with disability.

Progress – This Recommendation is outside of Media Access Australia’s area of operation. Organisations including the Australian Communications Consumer Action Network: look after these matters.

Recommendation 11—That the Government mandates the captioning or subtitling of all pre-produced emergency, disaster or safety announcements broadcast on television and introduces a voiceover requirement for essential information such as contact numbers.

Progress – This Recommendation is outside of Media Access Australia’s area of operation. Organisations including the Australian Communications Consumer Action Network: look after these matters.

Recommendation 12—That the Government acknowledges the community need for captioning and audio support for such warnings, and works with industry to develop such a capability so that warnings can be broadcast with these features in a timely and effective manner, noting that for emergency warning requests that are not pre-produced, the priority remains for the warning to be broadcast without delay.

Progress – This Recommendation is outside of Media Access Australia’s area of operation. Organisations including the Australian Communications Consumer Action Network: look after these matters.

Recommendation 13—That the Government calls on Free TV Australia to coordinate efforts to improve electronic program guide accessibility, in conjunction with their international counterparts.

Progress – There has been no reportable progress as yet.  Media Access Australia is currently undertaking research into the accessibility of electronic program guides.

Recommendation 14—That the Government asks the Australian Communications and Media Authority to consider including accessibility features as a key requirement for electronic program guides, or to develop a Code of Practice for electronic program guides by 2012.

Progress – There has been no reportable progress as yet. Media Access Australia is currently undertaking research into the accessibility of electronic program guides.

Recommendation 15—That the Government continues to investigate the technical specifications of set-top boxes to ensure set-top boxes are as user-friendly as possible and include specifications designed to assist people with hearing or vision impairments.

Progress – In 2011, regional Victoria switches to digital television. As part of the Household Assistance Scheme (HAS), the Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy (DBCDE) provided up to 1000 accessible set-top boxes to people on low incomes who are blind or have vision impairment. The Digital Television Taskforce has indicated to Media Access Australia that, assuming the accessible set-top boxes meet expectations, they will be the standard set-top box distributed to everyone in the HAS.

Recommendation 16—That the Government develops a website that allows manufacturers to list product and accessibility features of set-top boxes and digital equipment to enhance consumer awareness.

Progress – The Digital Switchover Taskforce, through its Consumer Expert Group (of which Media Access Australia is a member), has met several times to discuss the accessibility criteria needed for the website. These criteria have been finalised, and the Taskforce will now begin consulting with industry to promote the accessibility features of set-top boxes and digital equipment.

Recommendation 17—That the Government continues to monitor ongoing developments by the major cinema chains to achieve the commitments they have made to the Australian Government and disability groups.

Progress – In May 2010, the Commonwealth Government and Hoyts, Village Cinemas, Event Cinemas (Greater Union Birch Carroll and Coyle), and Reading Cinemas agreed to vastly expand cinema accessibility. The resulting Cinema Access Implementation Plan states that, by the end of 2014, 242 screens across 132 cinema complexes will be capable of providing captions and audio description on every film so equipped. An Accessible Cinema Advisory Group (of which Media Access Australia is a member) was formed to monitor and assist in the roll out of the agreement.

Following a meeting on 25 May 2011, the Accessible Cinema Advisory Group (ACAG) released its second communiqué, part of which is reproduced below:

Work continues on the roll-out of accessible screens with a number of cinemas coming on line since ACAG’s last. Hoyts Cinemas, Forest Hill (Victoria) and Event Cinemas, Top Ryde (Sydney) have now joined Event Cinemas, Robina (Qld), Hoyts Cinemas, Broadway (Sydney), and Reading Cinemas, Charlestown (Newcastle) in providing accessible screens.

The cinema industry also confirmed the roll-out of an additional 45 accessible cinema screens by the end of 2011. This will bring the total to 50 screens. Whilst this is less than the 73 screens expected for 2011 in the Plan, ACAG have been assured that delivery of the final 2014 targets of 242 accessible cinemas against the Plan is on track.

Recommendation 18—That the Government works with the Independent Cinema Association in achieving increased levels of accessibility in independent cinemas, having regard to differing levels of commercial viability and capacity to implement accessibility changes.

Progress – Media Access Australia understands that independent cinemas are still in the process of determining their digital strategy, which is a major part of increasing accessibility.

Recommendation 19—That the Government asks Screen Australia to amend its Terms of Trade to require the feature films it finances to be audio-described and captioned for cinemas and DVDs.

Progress – Screen Australia has amended its Terms of Trade to require that the feature films it finances also be audio described, as well as captioned, for cinemas and DVDs.  The change will take effect from 1 July 2011.

Recommendation 20—That the Government, in conjunction with the Australian Communications and Media Authority, conducts a review to explore how the National Relay Service could be improved and developed for the future.

Progress – This Recommendation is outside of Media Access Australia’s area of operation.  Organisations including the Australian Communications Consumer Action Network: look after these matters.

Recommendation 21—That the Government continues to encourage industry to partner with the disability representative groups to improve online accessibility through the Australian Communications Consumer Action Network.

Progress – Online accessibility is being reviewed as part of the Convergence Review, and access to Government information institutions is being coordinated by the Australian Government Information Management Office.

Recommendation 22—That the Government commences another review of captioning and audio description on electronic media in Australia by 2014. The review will evaluate the impact of changes introduced in response to all the recommendations outlined in this report and the impact of technological change in the media environment, following the completion of analog television switch off at the end of 2013. The review will consider what further actions are appropriate based on the media environment at that time.

This Recommendation is not due for 3 years.


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