The ACMA

Television

TV content regulation

Captioning

What is captioning?

Captioning is the presentation of the audio component of audio-visual content as text on screen: this includes sound effects as well as the spoken word. It is generally intended to assist viewers with a hearing impairment. Closed captioning is available on most televisions by clicking on the ‘cc’ button on the remote control or through the digital set-top box. It is referred to as ‘closed’ captioning as it is not openly broadcast.

In Australia, captioning differs from ‘subtitling’, which is the translation into another language of televised audio content, presented as text on screen.

Captioning amendments

On 20 March 2015, the Broadcasting and Other Legislation Amendment (Deregulation) Bill 2015  was enacted. This means that amendments to captioning provisions in the Broadcasting Services Act 1992 (the BSA) became effective from 20 March 2015. The key amendments include the following: 

  1. requiring the ACMA to  consider differences (including time constraints for live content) between the captioning services for live television programs and pre-recorded television programs when determining captioning quality standard(s);
  2. requiring the ACMA to review, and vary the captioning standard(s) as appropriate, in light of the above legislative amendment by 19 March 2016;
  3. postponing the statutory review of the operation of the captioning provisions in the Broadcasting Services Act 1992 by one year (from by the end of 2015 to by the end of 2016);
  4. extending the deadline for lodgement of applications for exemption orders and target reduction orders by three months (to 31 March in the first financial year of an exemption period for which an order is being sought);
  5. exempting new subscription television services in Australia from the annual captioning targets for at least the first 12 months of operation;
  6. allowing aggregation of captioning targets across subscription television sports channels supplied by the same channel provider,  subject to minimum levels being met on each individual channel of the channel provider (from the 2014 –15 financial year onwards);
  7. limiting the captioning requirement for repeat programs on subscription television services that have previously been broadcast with captions by a subscription television licensee to those supplied by the same channel provider;
  8. amending record keeping requirements to differentiate between written records and audio-visual records; and
  9. extending the ‘disregard’ provision to breaches of the captioning quality standard (that resulted from significant and reasonably unforeseen technical or engineering difficulties).

Captioning rules

The key captioning rules include:

Information about the key captioning requirements and how to make a complaint about captioning is also available in video form, with Auslan translation and captioning:

Annual captioning compliance results

  1. Subscription television broadcasters and narrowcasters – 2013/14 annual captioning compliance reports
  2. Free-to-air commercial and national television broadcasters – 2013/14 annual captioning compliance reports. 
  3. Subscription television broadcasters and narrowcasters – 2012/13 annual captioning compliance reports
  4. Free-to-air commercial and national television broadcasters – 2012/13 annual captioning compliance reports

Exemption orders and Target reduction orders

The ACMA has the power to make an exemption order or a target reduction order for a specified commercial, national or subscription television service if the ACMA is satisfied that refusing to do so would cause unjustifiable hardship to the broadcaster or licensee. Click on the link below for information on:

Applications for exemption orders and target reduction orders may be lodged with the ACMA:

  • in the financial year preceding the start year of the eligible period applied for; or
  • between 1 July and 31 March in the start year of the eligible period applied for.

Before an order is made, a draft of the order will be published for public consultation. Please go to the Draft orders page to read about applications for exemption orders or target reduction orders. The submission period for comments on these applications is now open. Please go to the Exemption orders and Target reduction orders page to view the orders made by the ACMA.

Complaints about captioning

The process for making a captioning complaint differs, depending on whether the program was broadcast on commercial television (such as Channel 7, 9 or 10), subscription television (such as Foxtel) or by a national broadcaster (ABC and SBS).

Information about how to make a complaint about captioning on commercial or subscription television is available on our ‘Complaints about captioning’ page, or you can watch our informational video - How do I make a complaint about captioning on commercial television or pay TV? which includes Auslan translation and captioning.

Information about how to make a complaint about captioning on ABC or SBS is available on our ‘Complaints about captioning’ page, or you can watch our informational video - How do I make a complaint about captioning on SBS or ABC?, which includes Auslan translation and captioning. (please note that the waiting response time is now 30 days and not 60 days as referred to within this video).

Last updated: 24 July 2015

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