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Filing a Closed Captioning Complaint

Background. Closed captioning allows persons with hearing impairments to access television programming by displaying the audio portion of a television program as text on the television screen. In 1996, Congress required video programming distributors (cable operators, broadcasters, satellite distributors, and other multi-channel programming distributors) to close caption their television programs, with certain exemptions. (47 U.S.C. § 613) The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) issued rules to implement this requirement, including procedures for filing complaints when violations occur. (47 CFR § 79.1)

The closed captioning rules apply only to non-emergency programming. Complaints about lack of access to emergency information are discussed separately below.

Filing Closed Captioning Complaints.

Contacting your TV Program Distributor. The FCC’s rules require that, before contacting the FCC, you must first complain in writing to your television program distributor (i.e., your cable or satellite TV, or other subscription service if you pay for any of these services, or the TV station broadcasting the program, if you do not pay for cable, satellite, or other service).

The mailing address for your cable or satellite TV provider is usually on the back of your bill, or you can phone the Customer Service number of the provider and ask for the mailing address. Mailing addresses of TV stations are generally found in phone directories. Letters should be addressed to the General Manager or CEO of the company.

Time Requirements. Your written complaint to the TV program provider must be sent before the end of the calendar quarter following the calendar quarter when the problem occurred. For example, if the problem occurred on January 28, 2008 (1st quarter), your complaint must be filed by June 30, 2008 (end of 2nd quarter).

Contents of Complaint. Closed captioning complaints should be very specific. Include the following information in your complaint to the TV programming distributor.

State that Your Complaint is Being Filed Under the FCC Closed Captioning Rules (47 CFR § 79.1).

Your Name: _____________________________________________________

Your Address: ___________________________________________________

Your Telephone Number: __________________________________________

Your Email Address: ______________________________________________

Name of the TV Program(s) or Show(s) with the Captioning Problem: _____

The Number and Name of the Channels the Show was on (for example, Channel 28, WYZZ, or Channel 106, the Story Channel): ___________________________

The Date(s) and Time(s) You Experienced the Closed Captioning Problem: ___

Detailed Description of the Captioning Problem (for example, “no closed captioning during entire show” or “closed captioning disappeared halfway into the program” or “the closed captioning text was garbled or unreadable.”): ________________

Complaining to the FCC. If you are unsatisfied with the response you receive from the TV programming distributor, or the TV programming distributor does not respond at all after about 45 days, you may complain to the FCC.

• You should contact the FCC quickly, within 30 days.

• Send a written letter to the FCC with the information contained in your complaint to the TV programming distributor. You must include a copy of the original complaint to the TV distributor and a copy of the response you received, if any.

• You may include further information such as videotapes, or copies of schedules showing the CC logo that was shown without closed captioning.

• Send the complaint to the following address:

Federal Communications Commission
445 12th Street S.W.
Washington, DC 20554

Access to Emergency Information. The FCC requires that video programming distributors that provide emergency information make it accessible to people who are deaf or have hearing impairments. Emergency information is that which helps to protect life, safety, or property, such as hazardous weather, hazardous chemical spills, or power failures. The information displayed visually must include critical details about the emergency and how to respond. Most stations close caption emergency information.

If you have a complaint alleging a violation of the rules requiring access to emergency information, you can send it directly to the FCC by any reasonable means --
• Email to fccinfo@fcc.gov
• Fax to 1-866-418-0232
• Phone by calling 1-888-225-5322 (voice) or 1-888-835-5322 (TTY)
• Mail to the address shown above for closed captioning complaints.

Your complaint should include
• the name of the TV programming distributor,
• the TV channel and name,
• the date and time of the omission of access to emergency information,
• the type of emergency,
• your personal contact information.

The FCC will notify the programming distributor and work to resolve the problem.

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