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Caption reports hide great access story

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Why is it that our communications regulator seems satisfied to hide great achievements in access by our free-to-air television stations? Commentary by Alex Varley.

Developments that benefit viewers, stations, advertisers and content providers should be celebrated and publicised. Instead the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) puts out reports that hide innovation and the power of the market to deliver more under a spirit of healthy competition.


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ACMA releases free-to-air TV captioning compliance reports

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Most Australian broadcasters exceeded their captioning targets in 2012-2013, according to compliance reports released today by the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA), although there were some breaches related to individual programs.

The ACMA reports show that all the commercial broadcasters exceeded their target for the year of captioning 90% of programs between 6 am and midnight. The ABC failed to reach it in one of its coverage areas (out of eight) and SBS for four coverage area (out of 12), but as these breaches were due to significant technical or engineering difficulties, the ACMA disregarded them.


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NZ Greens push for 100% captioning

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The New Zealand Green Party has released a new disability policy which calls for captioning targets of 100% to be phased in for the country’s main television channels.

Captioning (and audio description) in New Zealand is paid for by NZ On Air, a government broadcasting funding body, but there is no legislation that requires anything to be captioned, or any mechanism for captioning levels to automatically increase. Under the Greens policy, the Broadcasting Act and Telecommunication Act would be amended so that TV1 and TV2 move to 100% captioning by 2017, and TV3 by 2020. Targets for other broadcasters would be set on a case-by-case basis.


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Phillipines introduce accessible cinema, inspired by American legislation

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Philippines cinema chain SM Cinemas recently held the nation’s first accessible cinema sessions, simultaneously screening accessible movies across a number of theatres.

The event showcased closed captioned and audio described movies, allowing people who are Deaf and hearing impaired, blind and vision impaired to enjoy cinema along with their hearing and sighted family and friends.


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Q&A with Wendy Youens

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In our latest Media Access Australia ‘experts in access’ Q&A, we talk to Wendy Youens, CEO of the New Zealand access company Able, which provides captioning and audio description services for television and other media.

How and when did captioning begin in New Zealand, and how is it funded?

Captioning began in NZ back in 1984 on a few programmes every week, funded by the proceeds of the 1981 Telethon. Captioning started to grow in 1991 when captions were launched for TV ONE’S 6pm news bulletin. Since then the captioning service has been funded by the good folk at NZ On Air, New Zealand’s government broadcast funding agency.


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Ai-Media expansion to benefit education and business

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Access provider Ai-Media has expanded its operations to Melbourne as part of growing its national and global operations in Sydney, Brisbane, Adelaide and London.

Ai-Media CEO Tony Abrahams said he was “delighted to be able to additionally service our broadcast, education, corporate and government clients from this dynamic city”.

The provision of captions via speech-to-text in the classroom, workplace, at conferences and in meetings has increased access to information and services for people with hearing impairment and other needs. This access affords people the opportunity to participate fully and make equitable contributions in their chosen fields or places of learning.


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Audio description takes to the sky

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Emirates airline has announced the introduction of audio description to its in-flight entertainment system, making it the first airline to provide both captioned and audio described content for passengers to enjoy.

Emirates has worked closed with Walt Disney Studios to supply closed captioned content since 2007. In the month of August alone, there will be over 50 movies with closed captions for the Deaf and hearing impaired. To continue Emirates’ commitment to exceptional customer service, audio description will be introduced on 16 Disney movies, allowing people with vision impairment to listen to the visual narration soundtrack.


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Accessible cinema to get a legislative boost in the USA

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Last week the United States Attorney General signed a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking which recommends amendments to the Americans With Disabilities Act to provide captioning and audio description of movies.

The ruling will provide a consistent approach across the United States for cinemas to exhibit closed captioned and audio described movies. While the majority of movies released by American studios have captions and audio description, the number of cinemas making use of these features is varies widely across the country.

Some of the rulemaking inclusions are:


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Captions and literacy (new)

A student becoming literate involves a number of skills and capabilities, not only the capacity to read, but also the ability to understand, make meaning and analyse, and sometimes act on what has been read.

Literacy takes a variety of forms, including print and digital media literacy. Australian students are increasingly required to respond to a variety of text options in schools, including print, multimodal, digital and media texts, as defined by the Australian Curriculum.


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