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Captions that TV broadcasters must provide

TV broadcasters must show captions on some programs. You can complain if you have a problem with captions.

Broadcasters have to follow the Captioning Quality Standard. You should expect their captions to be:

  • easy to read
  • easy to understand
  • accurate

Find out about the standard in our video, What is the Captioning Quality Standard for Australian TV?. You can also download a transcript

When broadcasters must show captions

Commercial (free-to-air), ABC and SBS:

  • from 6am to midnight, all programs must have captions
  • at any time, all news and current affairs programs shown must have captions

There are some exceptions, such as:

  • programs that are not in English
  • programs that consist wholly of music
  • catch-up TV, as this is a type of video on demand
  • community TV
  • advertisements

Repeats of programs must have captions if the original had captions.

To understand the rules, watch our video, Captioning for Australian TV - How much needs to be captioned? 

Free to air multi-channels

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.

Subscription TV has its own rules on captions.

Emergency warnings

All broadcasters must show emergency warnings. These must be in text and speech form, with captions when possible. They do not have to include an Auslan sign language interpreter.

Free TV Australia and the Australian Subscription Television and Radio Association (ASTRA) 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.

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