The Broadcasting Services Act 1992 provides for the captioning of free-to-air television programs. Captioning is the presentation of the audio component of audio-visual content as text on screen. It is generally intended to assist viewers with a hearing impairment.
Captions include descriptions of sounds, laughter and music and are usually situated on screen to minimise interference with the picture. They are timed to appear with speech and are usually coloured and positioned to indicate who is speaking. Where speaker identification is not relevant, captions are usually in the form of white writing on a black backdrop.
Two types of captioning are generally used—closed and open. In relation to television captioning, closed captions are encoded into the television signal as teletext data, for example. Closed captions are then decoded and viewed with a decoder or teletext-capable television or capable digital set-top box. Open captions are overlayed or burnt onto the original print recording of a program and do not require a decoder.
Broadcasting Services Amendment (Improved Access to Television Services) Act 2012
The Broadcasting Services Amendment (Improved Access to Television Services) Act 2012 received Royal Assent on 28 June 2012. The Act implements the government's response to key recommendations from the Media Access Review final report, which was developed after extensive stakeholder consultation.
The Act creates a new Part 9D in the Broadcasting Services Act 1992, which requires that broadcasters must comply with rules and standards relating to captioning of television programs for the deaf and hearing impaired which include:
- new captioning targets for commercial and national television broadcasters
- new captioning obligations and targets for subscription television broadcasters and narrowcasters
- a requirement that the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) develop standard(s) on captioning quality
- a requirement that broadcasters transmit emergency warnings in the form of text and speech, and caption those warnings where practicable
- new annual compliance reporting and record keeping requirements to support new captioning obligations
- making compliance with the captioning obligations under Part 9D a licence condition
- requiring the ACMA to conduct a statutory review of Part 9D in 2015 and give the Minister a report of the review before 30 June 2016.
Disability Discrimination Act 1992
The Disability Discrimination Act 1992 (DDA) makes discrimination unlawful in relation to access to goods and services, except where providing non-discriminatory access would involve unjustifiable hardship. The DDA aims to promote equal opportunity and access for people with disabilities. Under the DDA, individuals can lodge complaints of discrimination and harassment with the Australian Human Rights Commission. The new captioning measures in the Broadcasting Services Amendment (Improved Access to Television Services) Act 2012 are prescribed under the DDA, removing the need for the Australian Human Rights Commission to administer captioning requirements for broadcasters and placing administration of these obligations with the Australian Communications and Media Authority.
Further information on captioning obligations
Further details on captioning obligations, and contact details for enquires and complaints, are available on the ACMA website.