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How to File a Consumer Complaint Regarding Closed Captioning

What happens if you are watching your favorite program and the closed captioning drops halfway through or the timing is so slow or fast that it doesn’t match the audio? Perhaps you also noticed a high number of errors in the closed captioning. Or maybe the closed captioning happened to be covering a speaker’s face or an important on-screen graphic? What can you do? The first thing to realize is that you as a consumer have the power to make a difference! If you are unsatisfied with the quality of captioning on a particular station or program, you can help remedy the problem.

At the beginning of 2015, the FCC developed a new web page called the Consumer Help Center. The FCC states: “We see the Help Center as a new approach to enhancing communications between the Commission and the public. In addition to being easier to use for consumers, the information collected will be smoothly integrated with our policymaking and enforcement processes. The result will be better results for consumers and better information for the agency. The insights we gain will help identify trends in consumer issues and enable us to focus Commission time, money, and resources on the issues that matter most.”

By accessing the Consumer Help Center, you can file a consumer complaint and later track the status of your complaint. This process is now faster, more transparent, and significantly easier than in the past. Here are a few important points regarding the new complaint procedure process:

  • Complaints concerning closed captioning should be filed within 60 days of when the program aired. It needs to include evidence of the alleged rule violation. Complaints will be forwarded to the video programming distributor who must respond in writing within 30 days of receipt of the complaint.
  • Complaints sent to a video programming distributor regarding programming by a television broadcast station or other programming for which the video programming distributor is exempt from closed captioning responsibility shall be forwarded by the video programming distributor within 7 days of receipt to the entity responsible for closed captioning of the programming at issue. The video programming distributor must also notify the complainant and the Commission that it has forwarded the complaint. Entities receiving forwarded complaints must respond in writing to the complainant within 30 days of the forwarding date of the complaint.
  • If a video programming distributor fails to respond to the complainant within 30 days, or the response does not satisfy the consumer, the complainant may file the complaint with the Commission within 30 days after the time allotted for the video programming distributor to respond. If a consumer re-files the complaint with the Commission (after filing with the distributor), the Commission will forward the complaint to the distributor, and the distributor shall respond to the Commission and the complainant within 30 days of receipt of the complaint from the Commission.
  • In response to a complaint, a video programming distributor is obligated to provide the Commission with sufficient records and documentation to demonstrate that it is in compliance with the Commission’s rules.
  • Certifications from programming suppliers may be relied on to demonstrate compliance. Distributors will not be held responsible for situations where a program source falsely certifies that programming delivered to the distributor meets our captioning requirements if the distributor is unaware that the certification is false.
  • The Commission will review the complaint, including all supporting evidence, and determine whether a violation has occurred. If the Commission finds that a violation has occurred, penalties may be imposed.

For more information visit FCC Complaints.

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