Captioning troubleshooting and FAQs | ACMA

Captioning troubleshooting and FAQs

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Turning captions on and troubleshooting

This video discusses some of the common issues viewers may have with captions, as well as some possible solutions. For optimum viewing of this video, please click on the YouTube icon on the screen and view the video in full-screen.


Download a transcript.

Captioning frequently asked questions

What is the difference between closed captions and subtitles?

Captioning is the text version of speech and other sounds, displayed on-screen. Captions are generally intended to assist viewers with a hearing impairment. Closed captions are described as ‘closed’, because they are not displayed unless the viewer chooses to turn them on.

Subtitles display what is being said on screen. They are commonly used to translate one language spoken on-screen into another language.

Do free to air multi-channels have to be captioned?

Each free-to-air broadcaster is only required to provide a captioning service for programs transmitted on its multi-channels (channels other than its main channel) if the broadcaster has previously broadcast the programs with captions on the main channel or another multi-channel in the same licence area. Programs that are not in English and programs that consist wholly of music are exempted.

Is catch-up TV captioned?

Catch-up TV, which is a type of video on demand, is not required by the Broadcasting Services Act 1992 to be captioned, however some free-to-air broadcasters have begun captioning their catch-up services.  If captions are available on a catch-up program, you can click on the captioning button on screen to reveal them.

Do community TV services have to be captioned?

Community TV services are not required to be captioned under the Broadcasting Services Act 1992.

Do advertisements have to be captioned?

Advertisements are not required to be captioned under the Broadcasting Services Act 1992.

Why do my captions occasionally appear garbled or frozen?

When words appear garbled, jumbled or frozen on the screen, or if lines of captioning are not displaying properly, this may be due to connection or reception problems. Captions are transmitted to your television the same way programs are, so if there is a problem with the reception or internet connectivity of your programs, your closed captions may be affected.

If you’re having problems with your TV reception, visit our What’s wrong with my TV reception? webpage for advice.

Why do lines of captions sometimes appear all at once, and sometimes word by word?

When a line or two of captions appear all at once, it is known as block captioning. This is often used when captions for a program have been prepared ahead of the time it is broadcast.

When captions appear one word after the next, they are known as scrolling captions. They are usually used when captions are being created live, as the program is broadcast. The captions are transmitted to appear on your TV screen as the captioner speaks or types each word.

What do different coloured captions mean?

Captioners will distinguish different speakers by using different colours. However, the same colour may not always be used for a particular speaker. The colour will depend on the number of speakers and the number of colours available.

Why are there dashes (--) in captions?

When a captioner makes an error they may indicate that a mistake has been made with two dashes (--) and correct the mistake. The correction may not appear where the mistake was made but may appear a few words after, so it may appear out of context in the sentence.

Are broadcasts of emergency warnings required to be captioned?

If a broadcaster transmits an emergency warning at the request of an emergency service agency, the broadcaster must transmit the whole emergency warning in both text and speech. The broadcaster is also required to provide captioning for the emergency warning if it is practicable to do so. These requirements apply to commercial television licensees, national broadcasters and subscription television licensees.  

Are broadcasts of emergency warnings required to include Auslan (Australian sign language) interpreters?

Broadcasts of emergency warnings on TV are not required to include Auslan interpreters.

However, Free TV (which represents commercial television licensees) and Australian Subscription Television and Radio Association (which represents subscription television licensees) have adopted best practice protocols, which provide that:    

  • Where an Auslan interpreter is present at a news conference or official briefing about an emergency, licensees will include the Auslan interpreter in the frame of the broadcast where it is practicable to do so. 

Further information is available at Free TV's Advisory Note on Broadcast of Emergency Information and ASTRA's website.

Want to know more? Check out our other captioning videos and resources:

Last updated: 12 August 2018