Media Release by Senator the Hon Jan McLucas

Better television viewing for the hearing impaired

Joint Media Release with:

  • Senator The Hon Stephen Conroy, Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, Deputy Leader of the Government in the Senate, Minister Assisting the Prime Minister on Digital Productivity

The Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, Senator Stephen Conroy and Parliamentary Secretary for Disabilities and Carers, Senator Jan McLucas today welcomed the passage through Parliament of the Broadcasting Services Amendment (Improved Access to Television Services) Bill 2012, which provides better access to free-to-air and subscription television for people with a hearing impairment.

The Bill amends the Broadcasting Services Act 1992 to introduce new and boost existing requirements for captioning on commercial, national and subscription television broadcasters. It includes measures to improve the readability, comprehensibility and accuracy of captioning. The Bill also ensures better access to televised emergency warnings for the hearing impaired.

“Access to television is important to all members of our community, including those with a hearing impairment. These changes will help the more than five million Australians who are expected to be affected by hearing loss by 2020,” Senator Conroy said.

“Captioning helps people with a hearing impairment by providing the text version of speech and other sounds during television broadcasts.”

The Bill implements a number of recommendations from the Australian Government’s Media Access Review, tabled on 3 December 2010, and is the result of close consultation with the Disability Discrimination Commissioner and the Australian Human Rights Commission.

“The passage of the Bill demonstrates the Government’s commitment to increasing media access for everyone. It is consistent with the Disability Discrimination Act 1992, as well as Australia’s international obligations under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities,” Senator Conroy said.

Senator McLucas said the enhanced captioning requirements build on the Australian Government’s commitment to ensuring everyone can participate fully in the community, regardless of ability.

“Watching TV is something that many of us don’t think twice about but the fact is there are many Australians who haven’t been able to enjoy this popular past time or take advantage of this source of news and information,” said Senator McLucas.

“The Australian Government is working hard to break down barriers that people with disability may face in the community.”

“We are delivering a range of community participation measures including improving access to cinemas for people who are deaf, blind, or visually or hearing impaired and providing playback devices in public libraries to improve access to print material.

The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) will be responsible for monitoring compliance with captioning targets and quality standards through annual reports submitted by broadcasters. The ACMA will also have a role in developing those captioning quality standards.

Support for a clear regulatory framework for captioning has come from commercial free-to-air and subscription broadcasters, and the public broadcasters, the ABC and SBS.

New captioning requirements will begin to take effect from 1 July 2012.