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Captioning policy

It is estimated that a significant percentage of the Tasmanian population suffer from some hearing loss. Hearing impaired people in the community include:

  • ‘Deaf’ people who have experienced early onset deafness (usually at birth) and who may use Australian Sign Language (Auslan) as their primary means of communication
  • people who experience later onset of severe or profound hearing loss usually through illness or accident and who use a combination of communication modes such as speech, lip reading, assistive devices etc
  • people who are ‘hard of hearing ‘ or ‘hearing impaired’, who have acquired hearing loss later in life and who rely largely on hearing aids and devices to assist with their communication.

The Tasmanian Government is committed to ensuring equity of access to Government information and services. The Deaf and hearing impaired members of the Tasmanian community should be able to receive the message of a Government communication to the same extent as hearing members of the community.

This policy has therefore been developed:

  • to ensure that members of the community with a hearing impairment have access to Tasmanian Government information with a level of independence equal to that of other members of the community
  • to raise awareness of the need to present information in a way that makes it accessible to the diversity of people who make up the community, including those with a disability.

Legislation relevant to this policy includes:

  • Disability Services Act 1992 (Tasmania)
  • Tasmanian Anti-Discrimination Act 1998
  • Television Broadcasting Services (Digital Conversion) Act 1998 (Commonwealth)
  • Broadcasting Services (Digital Television Standards) Regulations 2000 (Commonwealth).

Effective 1 January 2001, Subclause 38 (1) of Schedule 4 of the Broadcasting Services Act (Commonwealth) requires TV programs shown in prime viewing hours (6-10.30pm) on all free-to-air Australian TV stations to be captioned, plus all news and current affairs programs outside those hours. All regional stations, including those in Tasmania, were expected to comply with the legislation by 2004 (or from the date they convert to digital transmission).


This policy applies to each of the Tasmanian Government Departments and other agencies listed in Appendix A of the Whole of Government Communications Policy.

Policy statement

All television commercials/community service announcements, videos, DVDs and CD-ROMS produced for broadcast by or for the Tasmanian Government for viewing by the public must include captioning for the Deaf and hearing impaired. This includes general information videos and DVDs playing in a government office, customer service area, public hospital, public event or trade show, and videos and DVDs that the public can request, hire or purchase.

Captioning is the process by which the Deaf and hearing impaired can ‘read’ the soundtrack of a television program, television commercial, video, DVD or CD-ROM. Unlike foreign language subtitles, which are a translation of the dialogue only, captions include other elements of the soundtrack such as sound effects and music. They are also coloured and positioned on screen to help the viewer follow who is speaking.

Closed captioning must be used in all new television commercials made for or by the Tasmanian Government for viewing by the public.

Open captioning must be used in all new videos, DVDs and CD-ROMS made by or for the Tasmanian Government for viewing by the public.


  • Tasmanian Government agencies may arrange captioning through any suitable organisation, as per the Government’s procurement guidelines.
  • Captioning is the final stage of the production process. However, before filming it is advisable to consult with a captioning organisation to minimise costs and to ensure that captions are presented the correct way for the Deaf and hearing impaired.
  • Agencies should ensure suppliers and producers of television commercials, videos, DVDs and CD-ROMS supply a script of the soundtrack for use in captioning.
  • The cost of captioning varies in relation to the length of the commercial, video, DVD or CD-ROM and the need for multiple versions. A list of captioning service providers is available on the Media Access Australia website.
  • Public announcement videos, DVDs or CD-ROMS that are currently in use but are not captioned must be captioned before being used in public again. ‘Dubs’ of commercials that have previously been broadcast also need to be captioned, as well as new commercials.
  • Captioned material should be purchased, where available, before non-captioned material for use in public facilities like schools, public libraries, hospitals and health centres to provide the community with information and for training and educational purposes.
  • New or replacement equipment, such as televisions, digital set-top boxes/decoders, video-cassette recorders (VCRs) and DVD players that are bought for use in public facilities should have the capability to show captions.
  • If an external individual or group offers to donate material or equipment to a public facility such as a hospital, agencies should give encouragement and guidance where possible to ensure captioned material is donated above non-captioned material, and that any equipment donated allows captions to be viewed.

Government agencies involved in producing television commercials/videos and organising other promotional activities such as launches, should also refer to Special needs communication: production of alternate format material on the Tasmanian Government Communications website.


Media Access Australia - not-for-profit organisation advising on captioning and media access

Ph: (02) 9212 6242