Closed captioning allows persons with hearing disabilities to have access to television programming by displaying the audio portion of a television program as text on the television screen. Closed captioning provides a critical link to news, entertainment and information for individuals who are deaf or hard-of-hearing. For individuals whose native language is not English, English language captions improve comprehension and fluency. Captions also help improve literacy skills. You can turn on closed captions through your remote control or on-screen menu. (The FCC does not regulate captioning of home videos, DVDs or video games.)
On February 20, 2014, the FCC set new, improved rules for TV closed captioning to ensure that viewers who are deaf and hard of hearing have full access to programming, resolving concerns on captioning quality and providing much-needed guidance to video programming distributors and programmers.
How to file a complaint - https://consumercomplaints.fcc.gov
47 CFR § 79.1
TV Closed Captioning - https://www.fcc.gov/guides/closed-captioning
Please direct the consumer contact the Disability Rights Office if they wish to seek clarification on the regulations and procedures for closed captioning exemptions.
Self-Implementing Exemptions - https://www.fcc.gov/encyclopedia/exemptions-closed-captioning-rules
Requests for Exemptions - https://www.fcc.gov/economically-burdensome-exemption-closed-captioning-requirements
VPD Registry - http://esupport.fcc.gov/vpd-search/
1. How will the new rules affect me?
FCC rules for TV closed captioning ensure that viewers who are deaf and hard of hearing have full access to programming, address quality standards for accuracy, synchronicity (timing), program completeness, and placement of closed captions, including the requirement that captions be:
- Accurate: Captions must match the spoken words in the dialogue and convey background noises and other sounds to the fullest extent possible.
- Synchronous: Captions must coincide with their corresponding spoken words and sounds to the greatest extent possible and must be displayed on the screen at a speed that can be read by viewers.
- Complete: Captions must run from the beginning to the end of the program to the fullest extent possible.
Properly placed: Captions should not block other important visual content on the screen, overlap one another, run off the edge of the video screen, or be blocked by other information.
2. Will I have access to news programming in my local community?
The measures include requiring broadcasters who are permitted under the Commission’s rules to convert teleprompter script into captions to pre-script more of their news programming, including sports, weather, and most late-breaking stories. The pre-scripting requirement will result in captioning for some news programming that previously aired uncaptioned. In addition, the new rules require that crawls and other visual information be used to provide visual access to certain news segments that can’t be pre-scripted.
3. What are the different closed captioning schedules that apply to English language and Spanish language programming?
As of January 1, 2006, all “new” English language programming, defined as analog programming first published or exhibited on or after January 1, 1998, and digital programming first aired on or after July 1, 2002, must be captioned, with some exceptions. As of January 1, 2008, 75 percent of “pre-rule” English language programming, defined as analog programming first shown before January 1, 1998, and digital programming first shown before July 1, 2002, must be captioned, with some exceptions.
4. What are the existing rules for Spanish Language Programming?
Because captioning is newer to Spanish language program providers, the FCC allowed them a longer time to provide captioned programming. As of January 1, 2010, all “new” Spanish language must be captioned, with some exceptions. As of January 1, 2012, 75 percent of “pre-rule” Spanish language programming must be captioned, with some exceptions.
5. Are there any exempt programming?
Currently there are two categories of exemptions from the closed captioning rules.
Self-implementing exemptions operate automatically and programmers do not need to petition the FCC. Examples include public service announcements that are shorter than 10 minutes and are not paid for with federal dollars, programming shown in the early morning hours (from 2 a.m. to 6 a.m. local time), and programming that is primarily textual in nature. There is also an exemption for non-news programming with no repeat value that is locally produced by the video programming distributor (VPD).
Economically Burdensome Exemption from Closed Captioning Requirements
The FCC has established procedures for petitioning for an exemption from the closed captioning rules when compliance would be economically burdensome. You may contact the Disability Rights Office for more information about obtaining such an exemption.
6. Can they have subtitles in lieu of captioning?
The rules provide that open captioning or subtitles in the language of the target audience may be used in lieu of closed captioning.
7. What can I do if I experience closed captioning problems while watching a TV program?
If you suddenly experience closed captioning problems while watching a program on television (e.g., the captions suddenly disappear or become garbled) you may contact your VPD (i.e., your cable or satellite TV service, or the TV station if you do not pay for cable, satellite or another subscription video service) to report the problem at the time that the problem occurs and see if you can get the problem fixed.
You can find your VPD’s contact information in the following ways:
- If you subscribe to a pay service (e.g., cable or satellite), the VPD’s contact information should be in your bill
- If you have over-the-air broadcast only TV, the contact information for the TV station should be in the phone directory
- All VPDs with websites must post their contact information there
- Search the FCC’s VPD Registry
8. How do I find my VPD’s contact information in the VPD Registry?
VPDs must provide the FCC with contact information for the receipt and handling of immediate closed captioning concerns by consumers (e.g., the captions suddenly disappear or become garbled), and contact information for written closed captioning complaints. You need to provide only two pieces of information to find your VPD: your zip code and the type of VPD or video provider that you use. In the VPD Registry, the “type of provider” is asking for how you receive your television programming. This could be “broadcast” for over-the-air users (for example, using “rabbit ears” or a rooftop antenna), “cable,” “satellite,” “local telephone company” or “other.” If you do not know the type of program provider you use, select “All Types” and then click on “Submit.” A list of the VPDs that provide service in your zip code will appear and you can select from that list. Once your VPD’s name is shown, click on “view details” for that VPD’s contact information.
9. How do I file a complaint?
For captioning problems during non-emergency programming, you may file a complaint with either the FCC or your VPD. If you file your complaint with the FCC, the FCC will review the complaint. If the complaint contains sufficient information as required by FCC rules, the FCC will forward the complaint to your VPD. The FCC rules establish specific time limits for filing closed captioning complaints. Your written complaint must be filed within 60 days of the captioning problem. After receiving a complaint, either directly from you or from the FCC, the VPD will have 30 days to respond to the complaint. If you filed your complaint with your VPD and they do not respond within 30 days, or if a dispute remains, you can send your complaint to the FCC. You may file your complaint online via the FCC’s Consumer Help Center at https://consumercomplaints.fcc.gov. If you use American Sign Language, you may call the FCC’s ASL Consumer Support Line at 844-432-2275 (videophone).