FCC Announces New Closed Captioned Complaint Rules

Closed Captioning Update: New Complaint Rules Now Effective; Contact
Information Due by March 22, 2010

On Friday, Feb. 19, 2010, two important new closed captioning rules were
published in the Federal Register and went into effect. The new rules
require immediate attention by video programming distributors — including
broadcast television stations — to ensure that they respond promptly to
viewer complaints regarding closed captioning issues, and to ensure that
they timely file contact information with the FCC by March 22, 2010.

As detailed in Davis Wright Tremaine’s November 2008 advisory and subsequent
January 2009 advisory update, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC)
adopted a Declaratory Ruling and Order in late 2008 that, among other
things, imposed new requirements on video programming distributors with
respect to fielding inquiries and complaints about closed captioning. While
the implementation of some aspects of those rules was delayed initially,
with Friday’s publication in the Federal Register, two of those are now in
effect. The new rules, and the obligations they impose on video programming
distributors, are discussed below.

Streamlined complaint process

First, the Commission’s earlier Order revised the complaint process for
complaints involving closed captioning rules, and with the Feb. 19
publication in the Federal Register, the new complaint procedures are
effective immediately. The revised complaint procedures are as follows:

* Viewers who believe that a video programming distributor has failed to
meet its captioning obligations may now file a complaint directly with
either the FCC or with the program distributor, e.g., cable operator,
television broadcaster or DBS provider. (Previously, viewers were required
to first file complaints with distributors.)

* If a complaint is filed with a program distributor, then the distributor
must respond to the viewer complaint in writing within 30 days of receipt.
If a video programming distributor fails to respond to the complainant
within 30 days, or if the complainant is unsatisfied with the response, the
viewer may then file a complaint with the FCC within 30 days.

* If a complaint is filed directly with the FCC, the FCC will forward the
complaint to the program distributor, which will be required to respond to
the FCC in writing within 30 days of receipt. (Previously, distributors were
required to respond to FCC complaints within 15 days.) In responding to a
complaint, the video programming distributor must provide the Commission
with sufficient records and documentation to demonstrate that it has
complied with the Commission’s rules.

* Viewer complaints must be in writing and must be filed within 60 days of
the alleged violation (whereas previously complaints could be filed within
the calendar quarter in which the alleged violation occurred). The complaint
also must state with specificity the alleged Commission rule violated and
include some evidence of the alleged rule violation.

New captioning contact requirements

Second, in order to facilitate the ability for viewers to (1) raise
immediate captioning concerns (such as garbled or missing captions), and (2)
file captioning complaints, video programming distributors must publicize
appropriate contact information and also provide contact information to the

To assist viewers with immediate captioning concerns while they are watching
a program, video programming distributors must publish a telephone number,
fax number and e-mail address for purposes of receiving and responding
immediately to any closed captioning concerns. The revised rules require
that “customers using this dedicated contact information must be able to
reach someone, either directly or indirectly, who can address the consumer’s
captioning concerns.”

Under the new rule, distributors must ensure that any staff reachable
through this contact information has the capability to immediately respond
to and address viewers’ concerns, and in situations where the captioning
problem does not reside with the distributor, the staff person receiving the
inquiry should refer the matter appropriately for resolution.

Distributors are not required to alter their hours when they have staff
available, but if calls are placed when staff is not available, such calls
and inquiries must be returned or addressed within 24 hours. The FCC also
expects distributors to take measures to accommodate calls placed through a
Telecommunications Relay Service operator.

In addition, distributors also must separately designate a contact person
for the receipt of written (non-immediate) captioning complaints. This
contact person must have primary responsibility for captioning issues and
compliance with the FCC rules. The contact information must include the
contact person’s name, title/office, telephone number, fax number, postal
mailing address and e-mail address. A distributor’s contact information must
be included on the distributor’s Web site (if it has a Web site), in billing
invoices (if any) and in telephone directories (if the distributor already
directly advertises or has a paid expanded listing, i.e., more than merely
name, number and location in standard font, in a telephone directory).

The FCC will maintain a list of video programming distributors’ contact
information for purposes of resolving closed captioning issues. Accordingly,
distributors—including cable systems, broadcast television stations and
satellite television providers—must file their contact information with the
FCC by March 22, 2010. Distributors must provide the required contact
information both for handling immediate concerns and for receiving written
captioning complaints.

The best way for video programming distributors to file this information
with the FCC is to visit its Web site and submit the information online. The
Commission’s Web site contains a detailed form with step-by-step
instructions. Alternatively, the contact information can be e-mailed
directly to the FCC’s Disability Rights Office at:
[email protected]

Video programming distributors must keep their contact information current
and update both their Web sites and the Commission’s database within 10
business days of any changes.

Finally, the Commission has stayed the effectiveness of the rule that would
require video programming distributors to forward closed captioning
complaints to a third party in certain circumstances. Because of the
potential conflict with laws prohibiting the disclosure of personally
identifiable information to third parties, the Commission has stayed the
implementation of this rule until it can review the issue further and
potentially issue a notice of proposed rulemaking.


Additional information:






1 comment for “FCC Announces New Closed Captioned Complaint Rules

  1. June 13, 2011 at 3:11 PM

    What are the FCC rules for exemption on providing “Close Caption” on A full power TV broadcast channel
    i.e, gross dollar revenue per year

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.