Last month, the FCC amended a few sections of Title 47 CFR 79.1: the rule pertaining to closed captioning of televised video programming. The amendments, specifically to 79.1(g)(1) through (9) and (i)(1) through (2), along with the removal of (j)(4), are a follow-up to the proposed reallocation of responsibilities of the Video Programmers and Video Program Distributors first established back in early 2016. The updates to the rule reflect the final decisions on how a compliance ladder will operate when handling consumer complaints related to closed captioning quality concerns.
The ruling focuses on two different scenarios based on how the consumer may approach making a complaint. The FCC recommends filing all complaints within 60 days of the problem either directly with the FCC, or with the Video Program Distributor (VPD) responsible for delivering the program to the consumer. Depending on how the complaint is filed, the review and steps taken to correct the issue should follow the steps below.
The full process, as written by the FCC, can be found here: eCFR — Code of Federal Regulations – jump to 79.1(g).
Filing directly with the FCC ensures that the issue is recognized on a national scale and helps the FCC identify trends and/or repeat offenders. To file with the FCC, please see our article: How to File a Consumer Complaint Regarding Closed Captioning.
A viewer also has the option to file their complaint directly with the VPDs. Satellite and cable providers, as well as TV stations and networks, are all required to have a designated phone number and email address for direct closed captioning issues published on their websites.
This compliance ladder reflects the shared responsibility model that, while still imposing primary responsibility on VPDs, shifts some of that responsibility directly to the VPs that produce the content. Each entity is responsible for closed captioning issues that are primarily within its control.
If the VP is found to be at fault, then they're most likely may be an issue with quality: accuracy, placement, completeness, or synchronization. All of which can be avoided by using an experienced closed captioning vendor. Program Producers will also be required to register directly with the FCC’s website in the future as stated in 79.1(i)(3), but the date for that web form is still to be determined. In the meantime, stations may still require their programmers to submit their certificate of compliance directly with them; although, this is no longer mandatory.
Common issues the VPD may find themselves responsible for will generally be technical problems: either the caption data is not being encoded into the source properly upon transmission (program stream check), the hardware at the station or distribution facility is not configured correctly (processing equipment check), or even an issue with a set-top box provided directly to the consumer (consumer premises check).
At the conclusion of any complaint, the entire process will be reviewed by the FCC to confirm the complaint was handled appropriately, and that the proper process is in place to ensure that the issues do not continue in the future.