New rules that assign responsibilities regarding the provision and quality of TV closed captioning entered into effect on December 22 of 2017.


Responsibilities of Video Programmer Distributors and Video Programmers

2 binders on a table, On their spines is written “Compliance” and “Regulation”One of the most important changes that the new rules introduced by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) was to include the video programmers among the entities responsible for the provision and quality of TV closed captioning.  In the past, the responsibilities were only in the hands of the Video Programmer Distributors (VPDs).  The VPDs are the companies that sell you video services, such as, AT&T, Comcast, Verizon, etc.  The video programmers are the companies that sell to the VPDs the programs that they show on their networks.  Examples of video programmers are ABC, CBS,  Fox, etc.

Video programming distributors will continue to be responsible for the provisioning of closed captioning, but now video programmers will be held responsible for the absence of captions, if they fail to provide them. 

The FCC also requires video programmers to provide a certification of compliance with:

- The rules requiring the inclusion of closed captions.

- The captioning quality standards or its adopted Best Practices.

If the video programmers are exempt from the captioning obligations, they will need to provide a certification specifying the exemptions.


FCC compliance ladder for TV closed captioning quality violations

Another important element of the new rules is the compliance ladder established by the FCC to handle the violation of television closed captioning quality requirements. It provides VPDs and video programmers with opportunities to take corrective action prior to enforcement action by the Commission.

- Once the FCC has detected a pattern of noncompliance with captioning quality rules, the FCC will ask the VPD or video programmer to take corrective actions within 30 days, to demonstrate compliance.

⁃ If after the 30 days the problem has not been fixed, the FCC will ask the VPD or video programmer for a written action plan describing what they will do to reach compliance. 

⁃ The VPD or video programmer will need to report to the FCC the results of the action plan and spot checks covering the 180 days following the submission of the action plan

⁃ If after the action plan has been implemented the FCC finds continued evidence of a pattern or trend of noncompliance, the FCC will take an appropriate enforcement action, including admonishments, forfeitures, and other corrective actions as necessary. 

This change allows the identification of trends of violations in the quality of TV closed captioning.  It is very important that you, as a user, file a complaint when the quality of the captions is deficient.  Let’s first remember what the current  standards are:


Captioning Quality Standards

According to the FCC closed captions have to be: 

Accurate: Captions must match the spoken words in the dialogue and convey background noises and other sounds to the fullest extent possible.

Synchronous: Captions must coincide with their corresponding spoken words and sounds to the greatest extent possible and must be displayed on the screen at a speed that can be read by viewers.

Complete: Captions must run from the beginning to the end of the program to the fullest extent possible.

Properly placed: Captions should not block other important visual content on the screen, overlap one another, run off the edge of the video screen, or be blocked by other information.

Out of an open envelope comes out a hand holding a megaphone


Filing a complaint

If you, as a TV closed captioning user, notice the absence of captions or problems with any of the 4 quality parameters mentioned, you can file a complaint either directly with the FCC or with the VPDs.  The FCC provides a search tool that gives the information of the person to whom the complaint should be addressed in each VPD.

Remember, your role as a user is very important to guarantee the presence and the quality of TV close captioning.  Let the FCC and/or the VPDs know when captions are absent or are not delivered under the required standards.




⁃ “In the Matter of  Closed Captioning of Video Programming, Telecommunications for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, Inc. Petition for Rulemaking. Second Report and Order.” Federal Communications Commission, February 19, 2016,

⁃ “Consumer Complaint Center. TV. Closed Captioning on Television.”  Federal Communications Commission,

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