National Association of the Deaf

Improving Closed Captioning



Closed captioning is an integral and crucial part of a deaf and hard of hearing person’s daily life and personal safety. However, despite the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) current closed captioning rules, there continues to be woeful – no access or poor quality – television closed captions.

In 2004, the NAD and other consumer advocacy groups filed a petition with the FCC seeking to improve the quality of television closed captioning.

In 2005, the FCC began a rulemaking process to examine the FCC closed captioning rules for television. The FCC sought and received comments on whether additional enforcement mechanisms should be required to ensure full compliance with the closed captioning rules. The FCC also sought comments on whether to increase the accountability for noncompliance with the closed captioning rules. The FCC also sought comments on the following areas:

  • non-technical quality standards for closed captioning;
  • technical quality standards for closed captioning;
  • monitoring of captioning;
  • complaint procedures;
  • accessibility of contact information;
  • standardized FCC complaint form for consumers to use;
  • fines and penalties for failure to caption;
  • requirement for compliance reports by broadcasters; and
  • availability of captioners to provide live and pre-broadcast captions.

More than 1,600 comments about closed captioning were filed with the FCC, mostly by individual consumers.

In November 2008, the FCC issued a ruling that addressed some of our closed captioning issues and concerns.

Contact information: The FCC is requiring video programming distributors to provide two types of contact information for reporting closed captioning problems. First, video programming distributors must provide contact information for reporting and handling closed captioning problems quickly. For example, when the captions suddenly disappear while you are watching a television program and you want the station to get the captions turned back on quickly. Second, video programming distributors must provide contact information for filing written closed captioning complaints. For example, when a program has no captions and you believe the program should have captions.

New complaint procedures: The FCC is changing the closed captioning rules to provide a more efficient complaint process. Today, consumers are required to file closed captioning complaints with their video programming distributor. The new rule permits filing closed captioning complaints directly with the FCC. Consumers must file a closed captioning complaint within 60 days of the captioning problem. Complaints can be filed by e-mail, fax, letter, or by completing FCC Form 2000-C, available online at http://esupport.fcc.gov/complaints.htm.

Effective date: These changes to the FCC closed captioning rules must first be published in the Federal Register. Publication in the Federal Register is expected soon. These changes will be effective 30 days after publication in the Federal Register.

The NAD continues to advocate for improved closed captioning rules; additional monitoring, reporting, and enforcement mechanisms; establishing captioning quality standards; and resolution of old and new closed captioning issues and concerns.