2017–18 annual captioning compliance results: free-to-air | ACMA

2017–18 annual captioning compliance results: free-to-air

The ACMA has received annual captioning compliance reports for the 2017–18 financial year relating to 95 free-to-air television services, including 75 commercial licensed services and a total of 20 coverage areas between the ABC and SBS.   

2017–18 compliance summary

Free-to-air television services must comply with the television captioning obligations under the Broadcasting Services Act 1992 (BSA). Subsection 130ZR(1) of the BSA requires each free-to-air television broadcaster to provide a captioning service.

Since 1 July 2014, broadcasters have been required to caption all non-exempt television programs broadcast on free-to-air primary channels between the hours of 6 am and midnight every day (100 per cent captioning target). Exempt programs include foreign language programs (i.e. programs that are wholly in a language other than English) and music programs (i.e. programs that consist only of music that has no human vocal content recognised as being in the English language).

Free-to-air television broadcasters reported a high level of compliance with the 100 per cent captioning target, with nearly 100 per cent captioning achieved on primary channels during the period. Based on their annual captioning reports:

  • 92 free-to-air television services each achieved between 99.86 per cent and 99.99 per cent captioning on their primary channels.
  • The remaining three free-to-air television services, all of which are provided by Imparja Television Pty Ltd (Imparja), exceeded their reduced annual captioning target of 90 per cent. These three services had target reduction orders on the grounds of unjustifiable hardship.
  • On average, 99.64 per cent of all non-exempt programming broadcast on free-to-air primary channels was captioned.
  • In total, approximately 0.6 million hours of television programs were broadcast with captioning on the primary channels of free-to-air television services between the hours of 6 am and midnight.

View the levels of captioning provided on free-to-air television services in 2017–18 (Excel, 287KB), in order of television network name.

Breaches reported by free-to-air television broadcasters

Subsections 130ZUB(1) and 130ZUB(2) of the BSA have the effect that if:

(a) a free-to-air television broadcaster has breached subsection 130ZR(1); and

(b) the breach is attributable to significant difficulties of a technical or engineering nature for the broadcaster; and

(c) those difficulties could not reasonably have been foreseen by the broadcaster,

then the breach is to be disregarded in determining whether the free-to-air television broadcaster has complied with subsection 130ZR(1) of the BSA.

Based on the self-reported information provided by free-to-air television broadcasters, the majority of the captioning outages in 2017–18 (between 6 am and midnight) were the result of significant difficulties of a technical or engineering nature that could not reasonably have been foreseen by the free-to-air television broadcasters.

Such difficulties included unanticipated equipment failure and failure of network connectivity between broadcasters and caption service providers. Of the 92 free-to-air television services that did not meet the captioning target for 2017–18:

  • The captioning shortfalls for 10 free-to-air television broadcasters (on average 30 minutes per service) were reported to be caused by unforeseen significant technical difficulties. These breaches of subsection 130ZR(1) of the BSA were disregarded under section 130ZUB of the BSA. Consequently, the 10 free-to-air television services complied with the captioning target requirements for 2017–18. This means that, including the three Imparja services that met their reduced captioning target, a total of 13 free-to-air television services complied with the captioning target requirements in 2017–18. 
  • The captioning shortfalls of the remaining 82 free-to-air television services (on average approximately four hours per service) were caused by human errors as well as unforeseen technical difficulties. As the captioning shortfalls caused by human error cannot be disregarded, the 82 free-to-air television services breached the captioning target requirements for 2017–18.

Breaches and steps taken to address breaches

All free-to-air television broadcasters that reported breaches of the captioning requirements advised that steps had subsequently been taken towards addressing the breaches or unforeseen technical or engineering issues, including:

  • repairing or replacing faulty equipment
  • staff training
  • improved processes and procedures.

Having regard to the number and nature of the breaches identified, as well as the steps taken to improve compliance going forward, the ACMA has decided that no formal enforcement action is warranted for these breaches.

View the annual compliance reports from free-to-air broadcasters.

Last updated: 19 December 2018