Free TV Australia requests an end to caption reporting requirements

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Wednesday, 12 March 2014 12:12pm

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. Broadcasting licensees must, within 90 days of the end of a financial year, provide the Australian Communications and Media Authority with reports relating to their compliance in the areas of annual captioning targets, captioning quality, and the captioning of emergency warnings.

Free TV has also requested that a breach in compliance (such as a program not screening with captions) should not be considered when calculating a licensee’s compliance with captioning quotas if it affects less than 50% of a licence area.

Media Access Australia believes that scrapping the reporting requirements would be a dangerous move. That broadcasters are required to monitor and account for their compliance with captioning requirements ensures that the rights of consumers are protected. A similar reporting regime is in place in the UK, overseen by its communications regulator Ofcom, and the reports submitted by broadcasters – which often show them exceeding their captioning targets – are made public each year.

We note also that subscription television licences are subject to the same reporting requirements. Media Access Australia has long argued that access legislation covering the free-to-air and subscription television industries should align as closely as possible, as is the case in the US and UK. 

Free TV’s submission, along with submissions from Media Access Australia and other organisations, can be downloaded from the Deregulation page of the Department of Communications.

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