The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) has released its report on the ‘Contemporary community safeguards inquiry’ it conducted last year, which explored matters that should be addressed in broadcasting industry codes of practice.
The report states that the aim of the inquiry was to ‘ensure that codes of practice are fit for purpose in a converging media environment’. Prior to the inquiry. the ACME had identified seven concepts including ‘access’ which are relevant to broadcasting codes of practice, and one of the questions asked in the issues paper was ‘Should the concept of “access” be relevantly included as a guiding core principle?’
In their submissions to the inquiry, Free TV, SBS and the Australian Subscription Television and Radio Association (ASTRA) all argued that there was no longer any need for captioning matters to be included in broadcasting codes, as these were now covered by comprehensive legislative obligations.
In its submission, Media Access Australia argued that captioning provisions in codes of practice are still significant in reinforcing the important role that captions play in people’s lives. They also cover four essential areas which are not covered by the caption obligations found in the Broadcasting Services Act. These are:
- Ensure that closed captioning is clearly indicated in program guides.
- Exercise due care in broadcasting closed captioning, and monitor closed captioning transmissions.
- Provide adequate advice to relevant viewers if scheduled closed captioning cannot be transmitted.
- When broadcasting emergency, disaster or safety announcements, provide essential information visually wherever practicable.
The ACMA’s report concluded that ‘This is an example of where code provisions may be helpful in complementing legislative obligations for as long as the information is of value, does not duplicate existing provisions and allows for technological and other developments.’
The ACMA also stated that ‘At the outset, the inquiry was expected to culminate in specific guidelines for future codes of practice reviews. However, the ACMA has now decided to defer further work on the inquiry and to publish this report, so that the evidence it captures can immediately inform the broader conversation about the future of broadcasting regulation in Australia, as well as the industry code reviews due to be undertaken.’
The issues paper, submissions to the inquiry and the consolidated report can all be downloaded from the Contemporary community safeguards page on the ACMA’s website.