Captioning obligations: Free-to-air | ACMA

Captioning obligations: Free-to-air

News report shows captions at the bottom of the screen. Caption reads 'time for sport'

Captioning requirements

A summary of the general captioning requirements for commercial and national broadcasters 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.

The basic rule

Free-to-air television broadcasters are required to provide a captioning service on their main channel for all programs transmitted from 6 am to midnight each day and all news or current affairs programs transmitted at any time. There are some exceptions from the basic rule. For example, television programs that are not in English are not required to be captioned.


Broadcasters are required to provide a captioning service for programs transmitted on their multi-channels if the program has previously been broadcast with captions on their main channel or another multi-channel.

Emergency warnings

If a broadcaster transmits an emergency warning at the request of an emergency service agency on any of its television broadcasting services, the broadcaster must transmit the whole emergency warning in text and speech, and caption the warning where practical.

Annual reporting

Free-to-air broadcasters 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 Enhanced CAP05 form and Guidance notes).

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

Record keeping requirements

Each free-to-air broadcaster 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 broadcaster give its annual compliance reports to the ACMA (that is, up to 180 days after the end of the relevant financial year)
  • keep audio visual records for 30 days after the relevant broadcast and for 90 days if the broadcaster becomes aware of a captioning complaint about the broadcast.     

Exemption orders and target reduction orders

An exemption order exempts a specified commercial or national television service provided by the broadcaster from the requirements of the basic rule for a specified period (one to five financial years).

A target reduction order specifies a reduced annual captioning target for the specified commercial or national television service provided by the broadcaster for a specified period. If a target reduction order is made, the basic rule does not apply during the specified period of the target reduction order.

In response to:

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

Further information:


Last updated: 17 September 2018