Captioning and Subtitling Services

There are many reasons that captions can be garbled on your television.  The problem could lie with the reception of your television, the transmission from your cable or satellite provider, or it could be originating from the actual broadcast.  During a live broadcast, the problem with captions could also originate with the captioner or equipment and system used to deliver text to the broadcaster.

A good troubleshooting strategy is to start with your television.   Are garbled captions the problem on one channel or more than one?  If more than one channel is involved, go to the back of your television and make sure that all of the cables are securely attached. Be sure to check the wall connection also.  Another thing to keep in mind related to the reception of your television signal is that if the video picture is not crisp, then captions may display as unusual characters or garbled captions.

If the garbled or missing captions involve only one channel, then the problem may be occurring somewhere along the distribution system.  There are many places along the distribution system where a broadcast signal can be degraded or dropped.  A lot of equipment is used to bring a television show into your home or business, as well as different facilities may handle the broadcast feed before it reaches your home.  Nature may also be interfering with the transmission.  Solar flares can interrupt a broadcast signal.  Rainwater may be infiltrating a piece of equipment or hard wire connection.  If you are viewing a show in a public place, such as a bank, bar, or gym, the signal may have been split among many monitors by the business owner.  If the signal is split enough to substantially degrade the picture quality of a show, it will also degrade captions.

The best way to get your issue with captions resolved is to complain to your local service provider.  If you have cable, complain to your cable provider.  If you have satellite, complain to your satellite provider.  If you do not have cable or satellite, complain directly to the station that is transmitting the garbled or missing captions.  The FCC does accept complaints, but you stand a better chance of having the captioning problem resolved quickly if you complain to your local service provider.  You may want to complain to your service provider calling through your local Relay Service so that the provider understands that you are deaf or hard of hearing.  You also may want to ask if there are any signal problems because that can sometimes cause captions to be garbled. In your complaint, be as specific as possible, whether there were missing characters, unusual characters, or whether the captions were completely unreadable or missing.

The FCC has an online complaint form at or you can email your complaint to  You can fax your complaint to 866-418-0232, call toll free at 1-888-CALL-FCC (1-888-225-5322) voice or 1-888-TELL- FCC (1-888-835-5322) TTY, or send a written complaint to the Federal Communications Commission at the Consumer & Governmental Affairs Bureau, Consumer Inquiries and Complaints Division, 445 12th Street, S.W., Washington, DC 2055. Your complaint must be made within 60 days of when you saw the bad or missing captions. The FCC will need to know the name of the television program, the station, video programming distributor, and the issue with the captions.



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