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That 70s captioned show: how the news was first brought to Deaf Americans

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Following the release of our white paper on caption quality, we look back at the origins of television captioning.

The Captioned ABC News, which began on 3 December 1973, was the first news program ever captioned. It was a repeat of the ABC’s 6 p.m. news which went to air at 11 p.m., with the captions prepared by a team of five captioners.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zcgqQj2wKFw


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Measuring caption quality: our white paper

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Media Access Australia today released a white paper entitled Caption quality: International approaches to standards and measurement. It focuses on issues surrounding the live captioning of TV programs, the difficulties in measuring caption quality effectively, and some of the solutions that have been proposed. 

The white paper, which is the first in a planned series, was written by our Project manager for television, Chris Mikul, and sponsored by Red Bee Media Australia.


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Captioning campaign launched in New Zealand

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The National Foundation for the Deaf has launched a campaign, Caption It!, calling for increased levels of captioning on New Zealand television.

The campaign, which coincides with Hearing Week (24-30 March), draws attention to the very low levels of captioning in New Zealand compared to the US and UK, where 100% of programming on all major free-to-air and subscription channels is captioned. The captioning rate on public broadcasters in New Zealand is, by contrast, only 19.7% measured over 24 hours.


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ABC iview on the road to accessibility

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The ABC is working on Australia’s most accessible catch-up TV service as it rolls out improvements to iview.


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ACMA releases community safeguards report

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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.


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Free TV Australia requests an end to caption reporting requirements

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In a submission to the Department of Communications, Free TV Australia, the organisation which represents Australian free-to-air broadcasters, has requested that broadcasters no longer be required to report annually on compliance with caption quotas and caption quality standards.

In November 2013, the Minister for Communications, Malcolm Turnbull, wrote to organisations within the communications sector asking for advice on where regulation could be streamlined or removed. The compliance reporting requirements that Free TV is objecting to were included in the Broadcasting Services Act as part of a package of amendments relating to captioning passed in June 2012.


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ACMA makes no finding regarding Foxtel captioning complaint

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The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) has made no finding in relation to a complaint made by a member of the public that an episode of Grand Designs Australia shown on Foxtel in June 2013 was only partially captioned.

Foxtel supplied the ACMA with a copy of the master recording of the program which showed that it was prepared with captions for broadcast, but did not have an “as transmitted” recording (which would have shown what the viewers saw). It had checked its records and there were no errors logged on the night of transmission, while no-one else complained about the lack of captions. Foxtel admitted that the lack of captions could have been caused by a technical fault that had remedied itself, but it was impossible to check this.


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Access conference comes to Brisbane

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Registrations for the 2014 Round Table on Information Access for People with Print Disabilities are now open. The annual conference focuses on how the changing technology landscape affects and benefits those with vision and perception related disabilities.

The theme of this year’s conference is ‘putting the person at the centre’. The program states that “Person-centred approaches empower people with a print disability by positioning them at the centre of policy, decision-making and service planning and delivery.” The four-day event covers topics such as Braille, web access, entertainment and education.


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