Networks report on TV captions (on primary channels)

Equipment failure, power outages and failure of network connectivity and even a staff member falling ill -just some of the reasons that TV captions may not have made it to air according to an industry report.

ACMA has released its 2015–16 annual compliance (captioning) for free-to-air television broadcasters.

Each free-to-air broadcaster must provide a captioning service that equates to a 100 per cent captioning target for primary channels between 6 am and midnight (except for foreign language and non-vocal music programmes).

There is still no requirement to caption multichannels in 2016, despite networks having a reduction in licence fees.

Including regional stations it found 92 services each achieved between 99.86 per cent and 99.99 per cent captioning on their primary channels in 2015–16.

On average, 99.67 per cent of all non-exempt programming broadcast on each free-to-air primary channels was captioned during 2015–16 (6 am to midnight).

This figure is up from:
99.63 per cent during 2014–15
97 per cent in 2013–14 (when the captioning target was 95 per cent)
93 per cent in 2012–13 (when the target was 90 per cent).

But there were captioning shortfalls averaging approximately 1.6 hours per service per year, across the 6,588 hours broadcast between 6 am and midnight in 2015–16 (inclusive of an additional day for the leap year).

The captioning shortfalls for 22 free-to-air television broadcasters were reported to be solely caused by unforeseen significant technical difficulties. The captioning shortfalls of the remaining 70 free-to-air television services were largely caused by unforeseen technical difficulties, with some minor captioning outages that resulted from human error.

ABC reported an instance of Caption Operators becoming ill during their News Breakfast shift.

“The Caption Operator suddenly became extremely ill and attempts to deal with this and trying to make contact with someone from Caption Operations team at that hour of the morning proved
difficult and took longer than normal to arrange for a replacement,” it reported.

“The other instance of an ill Operator resulted in a 7min loss during a NSW 7pm NEWS bulletin. As all Caption Operators were at this time busy doing Eastern state 1900 NEWS bulletins, staffing was
extremely limited and again it took longer than normal to source a replacement.”

Seven noted a 8.5hr absence of captions at its BTQ-7 service, due to failure of equipment for the Gold Coast translator services.

“This outage affected only 20% of the potential viewers of the BTQ-7 Licence area for this period. The main BTQ-7 service was not affected, nor was the Prime Gold Coast translator service,” it reported.

You can read more on the 2015-16 findings here.


  1. I can understand live local productions requiring captioning by Australians. But I am amazed that for other English language shows; the captioning is not done at the time of production and embedded into the digital show. Why should each english speaking country need to re-caption a show when it can be done once and presumably using the script produced at that time, with any variations fixed in post production.

  2. I love the captions, not because I’ve bad hearing (it’s fine), but I find when watching British or American (rarely) programs, their accents are so strong it’s hard to follow, or in the case of the Americans, they speak so fast it’s also hard to follow. And the way things are filmed now is different, it’s not actors speaking directly into a microphone, they’re invariably walking or running, and so much dialogue is missed.

    What’s also interesting, and I don’t know how they do the captioning, but there’s invariably more dialogue in the captions than actually happens on screen. It’s like it’s done from a script, where lines have been cut, but are quite visible in the captions.

    If you talk about this, it’s amazing how many people turn on the sub-titles, I suspect it’s a lot more common than people might think.

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