ACMA releases draft television captioning standard

Wednesday, 5 December 2012 17:28pm

The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) has released a draft of the new standard covering caption quality on free-to-air and subscription television.

In June 2012, the Broadcasting Services Act 1992 (BSA) was amended to include increased quotas for captioning on free-to-air television, and to introduce quotas for captioning on subscription television. The amendments also state that captions must be of adequate quality, based on factors including readability, comprehensibility and accuracy. The ACMA was given the task of developing a standard which it could use to determine whether broadcasters are fulfilling their new caption quality obligations.

The ACMA held a series of meetings with the television industry, caption suppliers and community representatives to seek input in formulating the Broadcasting Services (Television Captioning) Standard 2013. In a consultation paper also released today, the ACMA has explained that it has taken “a holistic approach to considering the quality of a captioning service”. In the consultative meetings, the community representatives argued that pre-prepared captions were always preferable to live captions for consumers, and should be provided whenever possible, but the ACMA has decided “not to specify a preference for how programs should be captioned”. Instead it will “focus on the outcome for viewers, regardless of the captioning method used”.

The ACMA has decided against using ‘metrics’ to gauge caption quality (such as a minimum accuracy rate or, for live captioning, a minimum time lag between the audio and captions appearing on the screen). “The use of metrics,” the ACMA states, “could create a narrow focus that would detract from considering whether a captioning error, or a particular time lag, affected whether the captioning service was meaningful to deaf and hearing-impaired viewers.”

The ACMA has invited interested parties to submit comments on the draft standards. The closing date for submissions is 22 January 2013.

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