Top 12 of 12 #6 – changes to the Broadcasting Services Act

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Monday, 10 December 2012 09:47am

An issue close to home for many of our readers is the quality and availability of captions on free-to-air and subscription TV. Good news arrived in June when the captioning provisions of the Broadcasting Services Act were amended for the first time in a decade.

There are a number of amendments to the Act which improve the accessibility of television for Deaf and hearing impaired viewers:

  • Quotas were introduced for subscription TV for the first time within broadcasting regulations. Captioning quotas will increase incrementally and will range from 5% on music channels to 75% for some movie channels by 1 July 2014.
  • Broadcasters will need to meet a minimum standard for caption quality. A draft of these standards was released last week by the Australian Communications and Media Authority, which is seeking comment from the public. These standards are expected to be in operation by the second quarter of 2013.
  • Accountability has been increased as networks will need to report on their compliance by the end of each financial year.

Whilst some of the amendments formalise existing arrangements, the overall impact is that they provide levels of access into the long term and enshrine it all in the legislation that governs how television stations operate. 

Chris Mikul, our television project manager, said, “The amendments, which were well overdue, bring Australia into line with other countries such as the US and UK, where captioning quotas and quality standards are a fundamental part of broadcasting regulation.

“The big challenge for 2013 it is to ensure that these changes are properly implemented and that the broadcasters and the regulator are held accountable in ensuring that a quality captioning service is delivered.”

 The changes are explained in more detail in our document, ‘The Broadcasting Services Act: explanation of captioning amendments’, which can be downloaded from our Australian television policy page.

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