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2006 HREOC media release: Pay TV captioning progress ahead of schedule

Commission Commission – General

Wednesday, 19 July 2006

Pay TV captioning progress ahead of schedule

The Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission has welcomed a report by the Australian Subscription Television and Radio Association (ASTRA) on progress by its members in captioning programs to provide access for deaf and hearing impaired Australians.

Under an agreement reached in 2004 between ASTRA and the Commission, an initial 20 channels were to caption 5% of programs in year one and to increase captioned programs by 5 % each year for five years, with a further 20 channels to start adding captions within two years. Captions were required to be made available to digital subscribers and to other subscribers who have teletext capable TVs.

ASTRA has now provided its first formal annual report on progress up to October 2005, together with an update on figures available so far for 2006.

"I congratulate the industry on the progress they have reported, which overall is very significantly in advance of what was required by our agreement" said Human Rights Commissioner Graeme Innes.
In summary:

  • As agreed, 20 digital channels on FOXTEL and AUSTAR were enabled for captions in October 2004. Optus also commenced digital services in October 2005.
  • For these channels the average captioning level by October 2005 was over 25%.
  • These figures do not include captioning on the additional seven "+2" captioned channels time shifting programs 2 hours later or the World Movies channel which has around 95% subtitled programming.
  • Figures for 2006 so far for the 20 channels show captioning levels over 30% - better than the targets for the course of the five year agreement.

"Quite often we see that once an industry decides to embrace providing accessible services they find ways to do more than they thought they could, to take the opportunity to provide better service to more people, and that"s what we seem to be seeing here" the Commissioner said.

ASTRA will shortly be reporting on a further 20 channels to be enabled for captioning by October 2006, as required by the agreement. ASTRA will also be consulting with the Commission and disability organisations on plans for further increases in captioning beyond the five year period covered by the initial agreement.

Media enquiries: Janine MacDonald, (02) 9284 9880 or 0407 660 239

updated 05 July 2006.