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LOOK TO LISTEN: First Pay TV Captioning Plan

Commission Commission – General

Monday, 7 June 2004

LOOK TO LISTEN: First
Pay TV Captioning Plan

More than 20 Pay TV channels will have captioned programs within
6 months, under an agreement between pay TV providers and the Human Rights and
Equal Opportunity Commission.

Under the agreement, each channel will increase its captioned
programs by 5 % each year – slightly longer than an average drama program,
such as The Bill – and a further 20 channels should add captions within
two years.

Disability Discrimination Commissioner Dr Sev Ozdowski announced
the move today, saying it would have genuine positive benefits for the entire
community – but especially for Australians who are deaf or hearing impaired,
for older Australians and for people whose first language was not English.

The Commission has granted a five year exemption under the
Act to members of the Australian Subscription Radio and Television Association.
The exemption was granted on conditions including implementation by pay TV providers
of a five year plan for staged introduction of captioning, developed after negotiations
between the industry, the Commission and organisations representing deaf and
hearing impaired Australians.

The captions will be “closed captions” meaning
they can be turned on or off by the viewer. A further plan for captioning is
to be developed within four years.

“Everyone has trouble hearing sound on television sometimes,
not just as we get older but in noisy situations, like pubs, or even in the
home at dinner time – at least at my house,” Commissioner Ozdowski
said.

“People from non-English speaking backgrounds can follow
programs more easily when they can choose to read as well as hear what is being
said. I congratulate the pay TV industry for making a start on the road to equal
access for all customers,” Commissioner Ozdowski said.

Commissioner Ozdowski said that over time there would be a
significant amount and variety of captioned programming beyond that already
available on free to air television. The decision follows a similar agreement
with free to air broadcasters last year, under which they are increasing captioning
levels from around 40% required by the Broadcasting Services Act (for free to
air but not pay TV) to 70% within five years.

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

Last
updated 7 June 2004.