How to File a Captioning Complaint about Television
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
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
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
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
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, NADlaw@nad.org.
June 14, 2013