The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) has found Channel Seven Sydney Pty Ltd and Channel Seven Brisbane Pty Ltd in breach of the captioning rules.
Under the Broadcasting Services Act 1992, captions must be provided for all programs transmitted between 6am and midnight, and news and current affairs programs transmitted at any time. Captions must also be readable, accurate and comprehensible by meeting the requirements relating to quality in the Broadcasting Services Television Captioning Standard 2013 (the Standard).
Broadcasters must also keep audio-visual records of their programs sufficient to enable the assessment of captioning compliance obligations.
Seven Sydney was found to have failed to meet the requirements of the Standard for two episodes of 7 News broadcast in November 2020.
A separate investigation about captioning for an episode of Dancing with the Stars broadcast on Seven Sydney during April 2021 found that Seven Sydney was also unable to provide an accurate record of the program.
Seven Brisbane was found to have failed to meet the requirements of the Standard for an episode of Sunrise and an episode of 6PM News, both broadcast in June 2021.
ACMA Acting Chair Creina Chapman said captioning rules are in place to ensure television content is accessible and meaningful for deaf and hearing-impaired viewers.
“Captioning of broadcast content is essential for viewers who are deaf or hearing-impaired to access and enjoy television,” she said.
Ms Chapman noted that the ACMA has chosen improving the quality of captioning as one of its compliance priorities for 2022–23.
“By conducting a series of spot audits, the ACMA intends to determine whether television broadcasters are consistently and reliably meeting their captioning obligations,” she added.
As a result of the breach findings, the ACMA has issued Seven Sydney and Seven Brisbane with formal remedial directions to comply with the captioning rules. The remedial directions set out a series of actions that Seven Sydney and Seven Brisbane are required to take to ensure that they do not breach, or are unlikely to breach, the captioning rules in the future.
The actions include an independent audit of their captioning processes, a series of independent audits of live or near-live programs selected by the ACMA, and training of captioning staff responsible for the play-out of live and near-live content.
The ACMA administers and enforces the captioning rules through annual compliance reporting and the investigation of complaints concerning the captioning of television programming.