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How to Report Captioning Issues to Your Local News, TV Provider, and the FCC

Steps you can take

10/26/2020 3:29:27 PM

ASL version 

If you are DeafBlind or prefer to watch the video in a slow-paced, high contrast format, watch the DeafBlind friendlier ASL version instead.

English version

Closed captioning displays the audio portion as text on the TV screen for individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing. Congress requires that video programming distributors for TV to make their context accessible by providing captioning for their content shared on TV. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) established rules for those TV providers to adhere by. Smaller stations may be subject to different rules for live programming.

The FCC has the following quality standards that must be met when captioning context for mass distribution through TV:

  • Accuracy: Captions must match the spoken word and background sound and noises as fully as possible.
  • Synchronous: Captions must be displayed on the screen at the same time or close to, to their spoken and/or audible context. Captions must be displayed at a speed that is readable by viewers.
  • Complete: Captions must start at the program, and end at the program and not skip or paraphrase content.
  • Properly Placed: Captions must not block important visual text or content; overlap other captions; or run off-screen.

There are different standards for pre-programmed TV content such as TV drama and comedy; live TV such as the daily news; or near-live TV programming such as award shows. There are also standards for warnings and alerts.

However, from time to time the captions displayed on the TV will not meet the four requirements set by the FCC. Aside from misspellings and distorted audio signals, viewers may notice garbled text, broken or missing lines of text, symbols in place of letters and numbers, etc. Or the captions may fail to appear at all. As a viewer dependent on captioning to get your information, there are several ways to report captioning inaccuracies and inconsistencies.

How to report issues to your local news station

The local news should have a place on their website to report captioning issues. Follow the information on their form. You can also call the station general manager.

How to report issues to your TV provider

Check your cable/TV bill to see who your provider is. Common providers in Minnesota include Spectrum, Xfinity, DirectTV, Mediacom, etc., for example.

You will find contact info for your provider on your bill. This may be a phone number, an email, or a website link.

This information is also available online on the FCC’s database of video programming distributors.

You will be asked to enter your zip code, and they will present you with a list of available providers in your area. Follow the instructions to find your provider’s contact information.

Contact them by the information provided, and provide the following information about the captioning issue:

  • The TV program or news channel that the incident occurred.
  • The TV channel number.
  • The day and time it occurred.
  • Describe the incident (missing captions, garbled text, caption placement or cut off, for instance).

Alternatively, you can also contact the FCC, especially if your cable/TV provider does not follow up with your complaint.

How to report issues to the FCC

To file a complaint through the FCC, visit their Consumer Complaint Center on their Access for People with Disabilities page.

The page will provide a list of topics to file a complaint about, including closed captioning. Click on “Closed Captioning.” You will then be taken to the complaint form.

The form will ask you for information regarding the issue. Be sure to fill out all required fields marked by a red asterisk. Include identifying information like the program name, date, time, and channel in your complaint.

If you encounter problems accessing or filling out the form, call 202.418.2517 (V), 844-432-2275 (VP) or email for help.

The FCC will also forward your complaint to your video content distributor.

The FCC requires that written complaints be submitted within 60 days of the incident. After your TV provider has received the complaint, either through you or the FCC, they have 30 days to respond. If you sent your complaint to your TV provider, and they do respond, send the complaint straight to the FCC.

For more information, check the FCC’s closed captioning for TV website. An ASL information video is also available at that link.


The Minnesota Commission of the Deaf, DeafBlind & Hard of Hearing thanks:

The Federal Communications Commission Disability Rights Office, KARE 11, and TPT Twin Cities PBS for their information and feedback.

James Paul Beldon III for ASL talent.

Patty McCutcheon for voiceover.

Keystone Interpreting Solutions for film production.


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