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Closed Captioning for Digital Television (DTV)


Closed captioning is an assistive technology that allows persons with hearing disabilities to access television programming. Closed captioning displays the audio portion of programming as text superimposed over the video. For a television receiver to display closed captions, it must use a set-top box decoder or contain integrated decoder circuitry.

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, were closed captioned, with some exceptions.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is concerned that consumers may experience difficulty in receiving and/or viewing closed captioning on some digital television (DTV) programming, including high definition television (HDTV), provided by a subscription television provider, such as a cable company or a satellite television provider. These difficulties generally could arise from two causes: 1) the consumer’s set-top box and/or DTV are not properly set to allow closed captions to be displayed; or 2) there are technical problems with the subscription television provider’s system that prevent closed captions from being received and decoded by the set-top box and/or DTV.

What You Can Do

If you have difficulties viewing closed captions on DTV programming, including HDTV, received from your subscription television provider, you should:

  • consult any consumer information and manuals/guides on closed captions for DTV programming provided by your subscription television provider;
  • ensure that the captioning function on your set-top box, if applicable, is turned on;
  • ensure that the captioning function on your DTV is turned on.

If you are still unable to view closed captions on DTV programming, you should contact your subscription television provider for assistance.

Filing a Complaint with the FCC

If your provider is unable to help, you can file a complaint with the FCC alleging a violation of the Television Decoder Circuitry Act and the FCC’s implementing rules. There is no charge for filing a complaint.

If your complaint concerns the inability of your consumer equipment (for example, your television or cable box) to deliver captions, you may complain directly to the FCC. If your complaint concerns the lack of captioning on a specific program or channel (i.e., you receive captions on some channels, but not others), you may file a written complaint with either the FCC or your video programming distributor (meaning your subscription television service provider or the television broadcaster).

For more information on closed captioning, closed captioning schedules and exemptions, visit and see the FCC’s Closed Captioning consumer guide.

For more information on filing a closed captioning complaint and the information to include in such complaints, see the FCC’s Closed Captioning consumer guide. If you are uncertain where to file your complaint, contact the FCC’s Consumer Center using the contact information provided for filing a complaint with the FCC below.

You can file your complaint using an FCC online complaint form. You can also file your complaint with the FCC’s Consumer Center by calling 1-888-CALL-FCC (1-888-225-5322) voice, 1-888-TELL-FCC (1-888-835-5322) TTY; faxing 1-866-418-0232; or writing to:

Federal Communications Commission
Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau
Consumer Inquiries and Complaints Division
445 12th Street, SW
Washington, DC 20554

What to include in your complaint

The best way to provide all the information the FCC needs to process your complaint is to thoroughly complete the online complaint form. When you open the online complaint form, you will be asked a series of questions that will take you to the particular section of the form you need to complete. If you do not use the online complaint form, your complaint should include the following:

  • your name, address, email address, phone number and other contact information such as a videophone or TTY number;
  • the television channel number, call sign and network;
  • the name of the subscription service, if you pay to receive television;
  • the location of the TV station or subscription service;
  • the date and time when you experienced the captioning problem;
  • the name of the program or show with the captioning problem; and
  • a detailed description of the captioning problem.

A recorded submission of the lack of closed captioning, in addition to what is listed above, is welcome but not required.

For More Information

For more information about the digital television transition and DTV, visit the FCC’s DTV website. You can also contact the FCC’s Consumer Center using the information provided above for filing a complaint. For information about this and other communications issues, visit the FCC’s Consumers website.

Print Out

Closed Captioning for Digital Television (DTV) Guide (pdf)


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