Deaf Australia’s chief executive Kyle Miers says the watchdog’s leniency, however, will have an impact on the Deaf community. He said he has been “very disappointed” with ACMA’s recent exemptions and target reduction orders.
“Access to information is a human right,” he said. “The Broadcasting Services Act is designed to protect the broadcaster’s interest not the consumer’s. The percentage of captioning and requesting for exemptions is a legal way to discriminate against us. We have advocated for this to be removed.”
Mr Miers said it was unfair for a Deaf person to be charged a full price for a video-on-demand subscription but only be able to access a portion of the content.
“Broadcasters must incorporate the costs to make content accessible,” he said.
In Australia free-to-air broadcasters such as Seven and the ABC must caption all programs that air on their main channels between 6am and midnight. News and current affairs must be captioned at all times. (Multi-channels are exempt unless the program has previously aired on the main channel.)
Subscription television regulations work differently. Pay TV providers must caption all channels up to a specific target, which varies depending on the type of program. Generally the quota increases by 5 per cent every financial year.
The percentage of captioning and requesting for exemptions is a legal way to discriminate against us.
Kyle Miers, of Deaf Australia
A Foxtel spokesman said the company had a track record of exceeding industry standards and is required by law to progressively achieve a 100 per cent captioning target across all of its channels.
“In the financial year 2019, Foxtel captioned just under half a million hours of content across 81 channels,” he said. “Foxtel has especially rigorous captioning requirements, with the required number of channels with captions on subscription TV steadily increasing since 2012; versus more lenient requirements laid out for free-to-air broadcasters.”
The spokesman said Foxtel would welcome a discussion on “modernising and streamlining” the captioning process with the federal government.
“The BBC World news channel has never been captioned in Australia on any platform and we are set to be the first broadcaster to do so,” he said. “If a target reduction order is granted it is temporary and, following its expiration, BBC World News will caption at the otherwise required level going forward.”
Fetch TV has been contacted for comment.
While subscription TV providers have made some moves to temporarily reduce their captioning requirements, Free TV Australia – the body that represents commercial and public broadcasters – said its members have no plans to do the same. (Free-to-air broadcaster Nine is the owner of this masthead.)
“We are not seeking changes to captioning rules for commercial television at this time,” said Bridget Fair, Free TV’s chief executive.
Broede Carmody is a culture reporter at The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald