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Closed captioning displays the audio portion of a television program as text on the screen, and provides access to television for people who are deaf or hard of hearing.  Captioning can be helpful when used in places where it is difficult to hear a television program, such as restaurants and exercise facilities.  Originally required for televisions and converter boxes, closed captioning is now required for a variety of modern equipment used by consumers to view video programming.  Today’s closed captioning requirements also enable consumers to configure the display of closed captions in ways that suit their viewing needs.

What must the equipment do?

  • Equipment designed to receive or play back video programming using a picture screen of 13 inches or larger (measured diagonally) must be able to decode or display closed captions, if technically feasible.
  • Equipment designed to receive or play back video programming using a picture screen smaller than 13 inches must be capable of displaying closed captions, if doing so is achievable.
  • Equipment designed to record video programming must enable the rendering or the pass through of closed captions so viewers can turn the closed captions on and off when the video is played back, if doing so is achievable.
  • Equipment covered by FCC rules must enable consumers to adjust closed captions in a variety of ways.  Under these requirements, consumers must be able to adjust the font, size, color (both text and background color), opacity, and edge attributes of their closed captions.

What equipment is covered by the FCC rules?

  • Equipment designed to receive, play back, or record video programming transmitted simultaneously with sound.
  • Television receivers, converter boxes, and set-top boxes.
  • Physical devices such as smartphones, tablets, and personal computers.
  • Software (such as video players) installed by a device manufacturer before it is sold, as well as software that the manufacturer requires a consumer to install after the equipment is purchased.
  • Devices that record video programming.
  • Removable media players, including DVD players that currently render or pass through captions.

What are the Exceptions to the Rules?

  • Professional and commercial equipment not typically used by the public.
  • Display-only monitors with no playback capability.
  • Equipment that is capable of receiving or playing video programming, but is primarily designed for other purposes, and for which the FCC has waived the closed captioning requirements.
  • DVD players that do not currently render or pass through captions and Blu-ray players.

Why Does the Date of Manufacture Matter?

  • These requirements apply to equipment manufactured on or after January 1, 2014.

Filing a complaint or seeking assistance

You have multiple options to contact the FCC if you wish to file a complaint or seek assistance:

Federal Communications Commission
Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau
Consumer Inquiries and Complaints Division
45 L Street NE
Washington, DC 20554

Please include your name, address, contact information, and as much detail about your complaint as possible.

Printable Version

Closed Captioning Display Requirements for Equipment (pdf)


Date Last Updated/Reviewed:

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