Don’t make consumers the TV access police

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Friday, 30 January 2015 15:29pm

Media Access Australia is concerned that the proposed approach to reforming captioning regulation is going too far in shifting responsibility towards consumers.

View from behind of a man watching TV

One of the provisions of the proposed Broadcasting and Other Legislation Amendment (Deregulation) Bill 2014 being considered by the Federal Communications Senate Committee is to make viewers responsible for policing the accessibility of some television services.

Media Access Australia chief executive, Alex Varley, speaking ahead of a public hearing on the Bill said that reform is needed to bring media regulation out of the 1990s and into the converged, multi-channelled, time-shifted and mobile environment of today, but some of the proposals were going too far.

 “Consumers are being asked to ensure that a complex and broad system is delivering appropriately when even a properly equipped regulator is currently challenged to manage that process,” he said.   

“People just want to turn on the television and watch programs with captions. They don’t want to have one part of their brain focused on monitoring for quality and quota compliance. That is really the role of a regulator or independent body, just like it is for public safety, privacy or hygiene issues.”

The Bill would also remove a planned review of the whole system scheduled for some time this year.  Varley said that the planned review is the best way to deal with the issues.

“We have an opportunity to properly work through the whole caption regulation system and properly identify where the problems and shortcomings are and how to fix them, rather than cherry-pick some issues and try and address them through a quick legislative fix.”

Varley said there was also an important role for the committee, which is due to report in mid-February, following the public hearings, to play.

“I would like to see clear guidance on what the major issues are that need to be addressed by the review later this year,” he said. “The committee is made up of senators who will ultimately be considering any proposed changes to the regulations.  It would be very helpful in framing any changes to understand the perspectives of the committee, reflecting a broad range of views and legislative experience.”

Media Access Australia’s Senate Committee submission on the Broadcasting and Other Legislation Amendment (Deregulation) Bill (2014)—among other media access-related submissions—can be read on Media Access Australia’s Submissions and consultations page.

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