ACMA rules on captioning breaches by Nine and Seven

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Wednesday, 7 August 2013 09:52am

The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) has completed two investigations following complaints about captioning on programs broadcast by the Nine and Seven networks. In both cases, it found that the networks were in breach of captioning obligations, but has disregarded the breaches because they were caused by technical difficulties that could not reasonably have been foreseen.

The complaint against the Nine network related to an episode of The Big Bang Theory broadcast on TCN and GTV on 9 January 2013 in which the captions were intermittent. In submissions to the ACMA, Nine stated that the program had originally been captioned to tape in 2009, and there was a compatibility problem with these captions and the file-based system now used at its National Playout Centre.

Nine has put into place a number of steps which should prevent the problem happening again. It has upgraded software, established a monitoring station, and will order new caption files for any programs it is going to re-broadcast which were originally captioned for tape. The ACMA stated in its investigation report that “these events will inform any future ACMA decision-making involving consideration of technical difficulties…”

In the case of the Seven network, the ACMA received six complaints about the captions on Seven News, Today Tonight and Home and Away broadcast on BTQ Seven Brisbane on 22 January 2013. Seven was notified by a viewer of the problem, which involved captions from the news program repeating, and it was fixed shortly after Home and Away ended. The problem was traced to a piece of equipment at BTQ, and did not affect captioning in the rest of the country. While the ACMA expressed its concern that “neither the licensee’s manual nor automated processes detected the error”, it accepted that “it was a difficulty that could not reasonably have been foreseen”.

The full investigation reports can be downloaded from the Disregarded TV captioning breaches pages of the ACMA’s website.

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