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Federal Communications Commission

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FAQS - Television and Cable

FCC rules generally do not govern the selection of programming that is broadcast. The main exceptions are: restrictions on indecent programming, limits on the number of commercials aired during children's programming, and rules involving candidates for public office.

The Commission enforces regulations that were designed to ensure competition among cable companies, satellite companies and other entities that offer video programming services to the general public. This includes issues such as, mandatory carriage of television broadcast signals, commercial leased access, program access, over-the-air reception devices, open video systems, commercial availability of set-top boxes and the accessibility of closed captioning and video description on television programming.

Our most commonly asked questions about television broadcast services are:

How can I file a complaint about obscenity or indecency on the radio or television?
You may file a written complaint and mail it to:

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


You can file a complaint on-line , using the FCC Complaint form 475B.

The Commission asks complainants to provide the following information: (1) the date and time of the alleged broadcast; (2) the call sign or the frequency of the station involved; and (3) the name of the program, the DJ personality, and the city and state; (4) information regarding the details of what was actually said (or depicted) during the alleged indecent or obscene broadcast. With respect to item (4), in making indecency determinations, context is key! The Commission staff must have sufficient information regarding what was actually said during the alleged broadcast, the meaning of what was said and the context in which it was stated. There is flexibility in how a complainant may provide this information. For example, the complainant may provide a significant excerpt of the program describing what was actually said (or depicted) or a full or partial tape or transcript of the material. In whatever form, the complainant provides the information, it must be sufficiently detailed such that the Commission can determine the words and language actually used during the broadcast and the context of those words or language. More information about obscenity and indecency complaints.

Is there a petition pending with the FCC to do away with religious programming?
No, the FCC does not have the authority to censor programming. There is no Federal law or regulation that gives the Commission the authority to prohibit radio and television stations from presenting religious programs. More information on religious programming petitions...

What can I do about interference on my television?
In many cases, the source of the problem could be your home electronics equipment. It may not be adequately designed with circuitry or filtering to reject the unwanted signals of nearby transmitters. The FCC recommends that you contact the manufacturer and/or the store where the equipment was purchased to resolve the interference problem. More information on broadcast interference.

How can I file a complaint against my cable company?
Complaints about rates or service should be directed to your local franchise authority. A franchising authority is the local municipal, county or other government organization that regulates certain aspects of the cable television industry at the state or local level. The name of the franchising authority may be on the front or back of your cable bill. If this information is not on your bill, contact your cable company or your local town or city hall.

Who decides on programs and changes in programming?
In general, the decisions concerning what services to offer and on which tier to offer those services, are within the discretion of the cable operator.

More information on television and cable issues.

Reviewed: September 29, 2014

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