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Greater access to media for people who are deaf or have a hearing impairment (2012 Media Release)

Disability Disability Rights

Captioning levels on free to air and subscription tv will improve following the passage of the Broadcasting Services Amendment (Improved Access to Television Services) Bill 2012.

Disability Discrimination Commissioner Graeme Innes said the focus in the legislation towards increasing captioning services should be applauded.

Captioning assists people who are deaf or have a hearing impairment by providing a text version of speech and other sounds during television broadcasts.

“Over 2 million Australians who are deaf or have hearing impairment will have better access to a greater range of television programs, which is particularly important for the social and cultural participation of people with disability in Australia,” said Commissioner Innes.

Under this legislation, the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) will regulate closed captioning on broadcast television, and subscription narrowcast television. The legislation will also empower the ACMA, to develop a quality standard for captioning. A draft version of the quality standard should be open to public consultation later this year.

“The move to a more systemic and proactive approach to ensuring equitable access to electronic media for people with a disability is a positive one,” said Commissioner Innes.

The Australian Human Rights Commission has advocated for a rise in captioning services over a number of years and has encouraged this by granting temporary exemptions from complaints to free-to-air and subscription broadcasters under the Disability Discrimination Act.

“Given the number of people with hearing impairments will increase with Australia’s ageing population, in the spirit of the legislation I encourage broadcasters to caption television broadcasts where ever possible,” said Commissioner Innes.

The legislation will require commercial television broadcasting licensees and national broadcasters to provide a captioning service for all television programs between 6 am and midnight by 1 July 2014.

Subscription television licensees will also have to meet increased annual captioning targets. Over the next three years obligations are to increase between 2.5% and 10% a year, across a range of movie, entertainment and news subscription services. Following this period, annual targets for all subscription services are to increase by 5% per year.

Information on the new captioning requirements are available at:

Media contact: Neena Mairata (02) 9284 9862 or 0417 957 525

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