Australian PM Agrees to Closed Caption Online Videos

June 23, 2016 BY EMILY GRIFFIN
Updated: June 3, 2019

After a lengthy dispute, Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull agreed to add closed captions to videos on his official YouTube channel.

The dispute started when Australian author Lyn Lockrey noticed that videos published on Malcolm Turnbull’s YouTube channel displayed gibberish auto-captions or no captions at all.

Lockrey, whose son is deaf, requested that captions be added to Turnbull’s videos. He reached out to several members of Parliament and other government offices to demand accurate captioning for government videos on YouTube.

For over a year, his requests were ignored.

Lockrey was appalled to find even a 2013 video interview between Turnbull and Google that displayed inaccurate autocaptions.

(See video below. As of publication, it still displays autocaptions.)

Lockrey told the press:

“I simply couldn’t believe that such a video could be uncaptioned. If Australia’s (then) Minister for Communications and two high ranking Google people couldn’t make captioning happen on YouTube then we had a real problem!”

In August 2015, Lockrey lodged a formal complaint against Turnbull with the Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC).

I simply couldn’t believe that such a video could be uncaptioned.

Closed captions are necessary to make videos accessible to people who are deaf or hard of hearing, so the lack of captions on videos by government officials would deprive people with hearing disabilities from accessing important information.

In December 2015, Turnbull settled the dispute with the AHRC by agreeing to caption all future videos before they’re published online.

Australian Closed Captioning Rules

For the past few years, the Australian government has attempted to incorporate more accessible web practices.

Efforts began in earnest with the National Transition Strategy (NTS), a four-year plan from 2010-2014 to upgrade government websites and digital content to be WCAG 2.0 compliant. Part of WCAG 2.0 compliance is providing closed captions on videos.

The NTS had aimed to make all federal websites WCAG 2.0 AA compliant by 2015, but they fell far short of that goal. The Australian government still has a long way to meet their own web accessibility criteria.

While government YouTube channels are not explicitly named in the NTS strategy of making government online presence inclusive, they would certainly fall within the spirit of making government communications accessible to all Australians.

Advocacy for Web Accessibility in Government and Politics

Media Access Australia, a web accessibility watchdog and resource group, responded to the dispute with encouragement for more comprehensive closed captioning online.

Their Deputy CEO Natalie Collins said:

“If political parties and media outlets want to maximize engagement with voters, they need to make their websites, online videos and social media updates accessible.

In this day and age, where social media and the 30-second news grab is how many consume the latest news, it makes sense that this content be accessible to everyone, regardless of impairment or disability.”

This sentiment was shared by Deaf advocate Braam Jordaan, who successfully campaigned for closed captioning on the US White House’s Facebook videos with the hashtag #WHccNow.

Hopefully the Australian PM will set a more positive example for politicians and government officials down under to caption their YouTube videos.

3play media logo in blue

Subscribe to the Blog Digest

Sign up to receive our blog digest and other information on this topic. You can unsubscribe anytime.

By subscribing you agree to our privacy policy.