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How to File a Captioning Complaint about Television Captioning

Do you have complaints about television captioning? Many deaf or hard of hearing people contact the NAD with complaints about television captioning. Most of the complaints are about garbled captions, full of errors and incorrect words. Other complaints are:

  • Captions that disappear in the middle or toward the end of a program.

  • Captions that appear on some channels but not on others.

  • Captions that appear on a show when it is broadcast, but not on a re-run.

  • Captions that are covered up by weather information or other emergency messages.

  • Lack of captions about weather information and other emergency messages.

  • Networks that do not provide enough captioning.

Deaf or hard of hearing consumers need to be aggressive about making sure that captions appear on television programming. The NAD urges consumers to contact television programmers about specific captioning problems. Consumers should file complaints with the FCC if the problems are not resolved.

It is not hard to file a captioning complaint. You should contact your program provider, telling them exactly what the problem is. Send a copy of your complaint to the FCC. Some problems can be fixed easily. If the broadcaster does not fix your problem, or if you are not satisfied with what they tell you, you can file a formal complaint with the FCC. Here's how to do it:

1. As soon as you have a complaint about captioning, contact your video programming provider, in writing. You can find the address of your cable company or satellite company on your bill. You can find the address of a local television station by looking in the telephone directory under their call letters (for example, WJLA-TV).

2. What your letter should say: Explain exactly what is wrong with the captioning. For example: There were no captions. There were no captions for this show on channel X,

even though there were captions for the same show on channel Y. The captions disappeared for the last five minutes of the show. The captions were blocked by an emergency message. An emergency message was blocked by the captions. The captions were garbled and you could not understand them. Tell them the date, time, program and channel you were watching.

Say that this problem is a violation of FCC rule 47 CFR 79.1. If it is a problem with an emergency caption, then say that this is a violation of FCC rule 47 CFR 79.2. Tell them your name and how to contact you (address, phone, email, fax).

3. It is also a good idea to send a copy of the same complaint to the network that produces the program. For example, if you are not getting captions from your local CBS or ABC affiliate, you can also send a copy to the national CBS or ABC network. It is possible that the problem is with the network, rather than your local station, the cable company or the satellite company.

4. Keep any responses you get from the company. They may tell you to contact another company that actually produces the program. If they do this, they must forward your complaint themselves, or give you the address of the other company. The company must respond to you within 45 days of your complaint, or within 45 days of the end of the calendar quarter in which the violation occurs, whichever is later.

5. If you are not satisfied with their response, or if they do not respond to you, then you have 30 days to send a formal complaint to the FCC at this address:

Federal Communications Commission
445 12th Street SW, Room 6C-447
Washington, DC 20554

Send three copies of your complaint to the FCC, and one copy to the company.

Tell the FCC what your complaint is about. Attach a copy of your initial letter(s) to the company, and any response you received from the company.

Include a statement that you have sent a copy of the formal complaint to the company. The company must respond to the FCC within 15 days, with a copy to you. The FCC may tell you that there is nothing they can do, because the problem is not a violation of the FCC rules. For example, FCC rules do not require perfect spelling or accurate words on the captions. FCC rules do not require all programs to be captioned. The NAD believes that it is important for deaf or hard of hearing people to file these complaints anyway, so that the FCC will see what kind of problems deaf audiences have with captioning.

There are strict timelines and deadlines for you to file complaints and for the company to respond.  For information about the specific deadlines and how they apply to your complaint, contact the FCC directly or consult with the NAD Law Center,

Last Updated:  June 14, 2013