Your video programming distributor is responsible for ensuring captions are delivered to your home. Their captioning contact may be found on your monthly statement, their website, or search here through the FCC. You may also file a complaint directly with the FCC.
You should be able to access the closed captioning menu through your television remote. Once you find the “CC” menu, there will be several options, such as CC1, CC2, CC3. These menu items represent different captioning “fields.” CC1 will always represent the primary caption data, with captions representing the language as it is spoken onscreen. Other fields are used for different languages or reading speeds. Newer televisions, specifically digital and high-definition models, have begun using the “Service” titles to represent the captioning fields. For example, Service 1 contains the same information as CC1 – the primary caption data. Make sure you switch it to “on.”
Using your television remote, access the closed captioning menu through your television set, or your cable provider menu. Once you’ve found the “CC” option, choose “off”.
If you’re seeing strange characters and severe misspellings in your closed captioning, this is referred to as “garbling.” You may also be experiencing what is called “paired errors.” This occurs when two letters or characters are dropped out in repeated intervals. During some programs, errors aren't as severe, and it's still easy to figure out the context: >> I WALKED DOWN THE STREET becomes >> I WALK DO THE STREET. But with others, it's nearly impossible: >> I WALKED DOWN THE STREET becomes: >> I WKED DOWTH STRT. This could be happening for a variety of reasons, but the most common is that it is a transmission issue with your video programming distributor—cable provider, broadcaster, or satellite provider. Per the FCC, they must pass through captions, and make sure they’re passing through correctly. To report a problem, see “How can I complain about captions?” above.
There are two types of closed captioning—live and prerecorded. You see live realtime captions during sporting events and newscasts—programs that are happening live. Live programming is captioned by specially trained realtime captioners who listen to a program as it is airing and type what they hear on stenography machines, often at speeds exceeding 240 words per minute. These words feed into customized software which transmits the captions to display them live on your television screen. Prerecorded captions are created by highly trained captioners who listen to the program audio, transcribe words, sound effects, and music to give the viewing audience a full sense of what is happening in the audio track of the program. Captions are timed to sync with the program audio and placed to match the speakers on the screen. The program is then watched all the way through to ensure accuracy in the timing, transcription, research, and overall readability.
Part of the FCC Caption Quality Best Practices is that closed captioning must be synchronous with the program audio, but must also be on screen long enough to be read completely. With realtime captioning, captions are usually 5-9 seconds behind, as the captioner takes the time to listen and “write” what they’re hearing on their steno machines (2-3 seconds), captions are transmitted to the networks (1 second) and encoded into the video transmission signal (4-5 seconds). Prerecorded captioning shouldn’t have any delay at all, and should appear onscreen synchronously with program audio. If you’re noticing a significant delay in closed captioning to where it’s hindering your understanding of the program, this could be a transmission issue with your video programming distributor—cable provider, broadcaster or satellite provider. Per the FCC, they must pass through captions, and make sure they’re passing through correctly. To report a problem, see “How can I complain about captions?” above.
The FCC only requires internet protocol (IP)-delivered content to be captioned if it aired on television, and will soon include clips of shows that aired on television. However, this may change in the future with content that was not broadcast on television. A lot of subscription-video-on-demand services such as Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon are captioning original programming so that it is accessible for everyone, and iTunes now requires all of its content to be captioned.
If your captions appear irregular, meaning they are severely delayed, include strange characters and misspellings, are jumping from one place to another on-screen, or are missing altogether and you know you’ve turned them on, you may need to do a soft or hard reset of your cable or satellite box. As these are commonly transmission issues, your video programming distributor (cable provider, broadcaster, or satellite provider) must pass through captions, and make sure they’re passing through correctly. To report a problem, see “How can I complain about captions?” above.
When it comes to prerecorded captioning, VITAC captions in the case requested by our customers. All live captioning, such as that you see for news and sports, must be captioned in all capital letters in order to retain the speed at which realtime captioners are required to caption.
A lot of television sets and cable or satellite provider menus have the option to change the appearance of your captions. You should be able to access caption options through your television remote. Once you find the “CC” menu, there will be several options for the captions such as size and color.
All of our captioners, whether they’re live captioning or offline captioning, are all highly-skilled human employees. We’re commonly asked questions like these due to technical issues that are erroneously blamed on our captioners.