May 30, 2012

Broadcasting Services Amendment (Improved Access to Television Services) Bill 2012 – Second Reading

Mr ALBANESE (Grayndler—Leader of the House and Minister for Infrastructure and Transport) (10:21):  I move:

That this bill be now read a second time.

Access to electronic media is important to all members of our community, including those with a hearing impairment. It is expected that by 2020 hearing loss is likely to affect more than five million Australians.

The Broadcasting Services Amendment (Improved Access to Television Services) Bill 2012 implements the government’s response to the media access review. This was a review in access to electronic media for people with hearing and vision impairment. It involves significant public consultation, including receiving more than 200 submissions on two discussion papers.

The purpose of this bill is to amend the Broadcasting Services Act 1992 to provide for greater access to free-to-air and subscription television for the hearing impaired.

The bill will achieve this by introducing new legislative requirements and, where applicable, increasing existing requirements for captioning on commercial, national and subscription television broadcasters.

The bill will implement captioning targets that are comparable with international best practice.

Reaching these targets will be a significant achievement, as we move toward equal access to electronic media, for all sections of Australian society.

A gradual, incremental increase in targets will assist the nation’s broadcasters adjust to the increasing costs associated with the changes.

The bill will also provide for improved access to televised emergency warnings for people with a hearing or vision impairment by mandating that these must be transmitted in the form of text and speech, and captioned where reasonably practicable.

The bill will also address issues with variability in the quality of captions.

 Under this bill the Australian Communications and Media Authority will determine standards relating to the quality of captioning. in terms of readability, comprehensibility and accuracy.

There are a number of programs that broadcasters are not currently required to caption for practical reasons, and these exemptions will be maintained.

The bill will prescribe the new captioning requirements in the Broadcasting Services Act 1992 under the Disability Discrimination Act 1992. This will provide both consumers and broadcasters with a level of regulatory certainty through one set of clear future targets and one overarching regulatory system. This will remove the current duplication where broadcasters are subject to targets under both the Broadcasting Services Act 1992 and the Disability Discrimination Act 1992.

The Attorney-General will develop the required regulation.

The government will ensure that meaningful improvements to levels of media access for people with hearing and vision impairment are achieved in a way that is practical for broadcasters and content producers.

The passing of this bill will improve the accessibility of television, ensuring a more inclusive viewing experience for all Australians. I commend this important bill to the House.

Debate adjourned.