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TV captioning

TV broadcasters must show captions at certain times and on certain programs.

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

  • easy to read
  • easy to understand
  • accurate

We recently completed a review of the Captioning Quality Standard and have remade the Standard without changes. You can read about the review on our consultation page.

Find out more about the Standard in our video, ACMA rules for high-quality captions.

When broadcasters must show captions

All free-to-air broadcasters (7, 9, 10, Win, Prime7, ABC and SBS) must show captions:

  • for all programs, between 6am to midnight
  • for all news and current affairs, at all times

There are some exceptions, such as:

  • programs that are not in English
  • programs that consist wholly of music
  • community TV
  • advertisements  
  • programs on multi-channels that haven’t previously been broadcast with captions
  • programs on streaming or on-demand services

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

Subscription TV (for example, Foxtel) 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.

How to complain

You can complain to the ACMA if you have a problem with captions.

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