Captioning obligations: Subscription TV | ACMA

Captioning obligations: Subscription TV

Captioning requirements

Information about captioning requirements for subscription broadcasters and narrowcasters is included below. You can also watch our informational video – What are the rules about how much television needs to be captioned?, which includes Auslan translation and captioning.

Subscription TV annual captioning targets

From 1 July 2012, subscription television services have been required to meet annual captioning targets for each financial year. There are different annual captioning targets for different categories of subscription television services. The annual captioning target for each service category increases each year until it reaches 100 per cent.

Summary table – Annual captioning targets for subscription television (broadcasters and narrowcasters)

Percentage of total duration of programs transmitted on the service during the financial year that must be captioned

Item

Service category

F/Y*
1 Jul 2016

F/Y
1 Jul 2017

F/Y
1 Jul 2018

F/Y
1 Jul 2019

F/Y
1 Jul 2020

F/Y
1 Jul 2021

F/Y
1 Jul 2022

F/Y
1 Jul 2023

F/Y
1 Jul 2024

Annual target will increase by 5 per cent each year until it reaches 100 per cent

1

Category A subscription television movie service (default for movie services)

85%

90%

95%

100%

100%

100%

100%

100%

100%

2

Category B subscription television movie service (for the 7th movie channel if nominated by licensee)

65%

70%

75%

80%

85%

90%

95%

100%

100%

3

Category C subscription television movie service (for the 8th or more movie channels if nominated by licensee)

55%

60%

65%

70%

75%

80%

85%

90%

95%

4

Category A subscription television general entertainment service (default for general entertaining services)

65%

70%

75%

80%

85%

90%

95%

100%

100%

5

Category B subscription television general entertainment service (for the 19th to 34th channels if nominated by licensee)

55%

60%

65%

70%

75%

80%

85%

90%

95%

6

Category C subscription television general entertainment service (for the 35th or more channels if nominated by licensee)

35%

40%

45%

50%

55%

60%

65%

70%

75%

7

Subscription television news service

25%

30%

35%

40%

45%

50%

55%

60%

65%

8

**Subscription television sports service

25%

30%

35%

40%

45%

50%

55%

60%

65%

9

Subscription television music service

15%

20%

25%

30%

35%

40%

45%

50%

55%

* F/Y = the Financial year the figures start on

** A subscription television licensee may aggregate the annual captioning targets of sports services that are supplied by the same channel provider. However, the licensee is still required to meet a captioning target of at least two thirds of the existing captioning target on each individual channel.  See heading ‘Subscription Television Sports Channels’ for further information. 

Repeat television programs

If a subscription television licensee transmits a television program that has been previously transmitted with captions on the same or another subscription television service provided by the licensee, the licensee must provide a captioning service for that repeat television program.  This requirement only applies to programs supplied by the same channel provider.

Aggregation of Sports Channels’ captioning targets

From the 2014–15 financial year, a subscription television licensee may aggregate the annual captioning targets for sports channels supplied by the same channel provider.  Each individual sports channel must still maintain a certain level of captioning, which is at least two-thirds of the annual captioning target.

For example: For FY2017–18, the captioning target for a sports channel is 30%. If a subscription television licensee broadcast two sports channels provided by the same channel provider:

  • the amount of captioned content must average at least 30% across both channels;
  • each of the two channels must caption at least 20% (two-thirds of 30%); and
  • one channel could be as high as 40% with the second channel at 20%.  

Exclusion of new subscription television channels from captioning targets 

New subscription television services are exempt from the annual captioning targets for one to almost two years depending on when the services commence.   

To qualify for the exemption, a subscription television service must predominantly consist of programs not previously transmitted in Australia before the service commenced.  

The exemption from captioning obligations applies from service commencement until the financial year beginning on the first 1 July that is at least one year after the service commenced.

Example 1: If a new subscription television service commenced on 1 July 2017, the service will be exempt from the annual captioning target from 1 July 2017 to 30 June 2018. 

Example 2: If a new subscription television service commenced on 1 September 2017, the service will be exempt from the annual captioning targets from 1 September 2017 to 30 June 2019.

Simultaneously transmitted television programs

If a subscription television licensee transmits a television program on two subscription television services at the same time and the program is captioned on one of the two services, the program must also be captioned on the other service.

Emergency warnings

If a subscription television licensee transmits an emergency warning at the request of an emergency service agency on a subscription television service, the licensee must transmit the whole emergency warning in text and speech, and caption the warning where practical.

Industry codes of practice

Under section 123 of the Broadcasting Services Act 1992, industry groups have developed codes of practice in consultation with the ACMA. Once implemented, the ACMA monitors these codes and deals with unresolved complaints made under them. Captioning is covered by the following codes of practice:

Annual reporting

Subscription television licensees must give annual reports of their compliance with the captioning obligations to the ACMA within 90 days after the end of a financial year. The reports must be in a form approved by the ACMA (ACMA Revised CAP06 form and guidance notes). 

The ACMA publishes their reports and compliance summaries on our Captioning compliance page.

Record keeping requirements

Each subscription television licensee is also required to make compliance records in a form approved by the ACMA and retain the records for at least the following period:  

  • keep written records for 90 days after the licensee gives its annual compliance report to the ACMA (that is, up to 180 days after the end of the relevant financial year) and
  • keep audio visual records for 30 days following the relevant broadcast and for 90 days if a licensee becomes aware of a captioning complaint about the broadcast. 

Exemption orders and target reduction orders

An exemption order exempts a specified subscription television service provided by a subscription television licensee from the annual captioning target for a specified period (one to five financial years).

A target reduction order specifies a reduced annual captioning target for the specified subscription television service provided by a subscription television licensee for a specified period.

In response to:

the ACMA assesses whether refusing to make the exemption order or target reduction order would cause unjustifiable hardship to the licensee.

Further information:

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