closed caption
Watching the Tube
Digital Television Transition
Since January of 2006, the Federal Communication Commission (FCC) ruled that television programming must be 100 percent captioned, regardless of the distributor providing the programming (broadcasters, cable operators, wireless cable operators, satellite master antenna television operators, direct broadcast satellite providers, instructional TV fixed services, direct-to-home providers, home satellite dish providers, and open video system operators. The FCC also defines video programming as programming that is distributed and exhibited for residential use. The only exceptions are for exempt formats, such as music shows, and programs produced before the ruling.
On June 12, 2009 all full-power broadcast television stations in the United States stopped broadcasting on analog airwaves and began broadcasting only in digital. Digital broadcasting allows stations to offer improved picture and sound quality and additional channels.
For a television receiver to display closed captions, it must use a set-top box decoder or contain integrated decoder circuitry.  The FCC was concerned that consumers might experience difficulty in receiving and/or viewing closed captioning on some digital television (DTV) programming, including high definition television (HDTV), provided by a programming distributor, such as a cable company or a satellite television provider. These difficulties generally could arise from two causes: 1) the consumer's set-top box and/or DTV are not properly set to allow closed captions to be displayed; or 2) there are technical problems with the cable or satellite provider's system that prevent closed captions from being received and decoded by the set-top box and/or DTV.

If you are still unable to view closed captions on DTV programming, you should contact your cable company or satellite television provider for assistance. If your provider is unable to help, you can contact the FCC's Consumer Center at the number listed below.

You can also file an informal complaint alleging a violation of the Television Decoder Circuitry Act and the FCC's implementing rules. You can file your complaint using the on-line complaint Form 475 found here e-mailing; calling the Consumer Center at 1-888-CALL-FCC (1-888-225-5322) voice, 1-888-TELL-FCC (1-888-835-5322) TTY; faxing 1-866-418-0232; or writing to:


Federal Communications Commission
Consumer & Governmental Affairs Bureau
Consumer Inquiries and Complaints Division
445 12th Street, S.W.
Washington, DC 20554.

(excerpted from the FCC Web site.)