You can complain all you want, but does anything ever get better?

If you ask broadcasters why their CAPTIONING SUCKS, they’ll tell you they are satisfied with their captioning (which isn’t what you asked) and that they receive few complaints. (But wasn’t your question a complaint?)

The first problem: It’s almost impossible to submit a complaint about captioning.

  • You’re probably watching TV for recreation. Are you supposed to get up off the couch and jot down a dozen little details?
  • Then what are you supposed to do? Call a TTY line, which either won’t answer or will just take a message? (Will anyone notice the little printout on the TTY the next day?)
  • Or would you like to submit a written complaint? How long is that going to take to write? How long would you wait for a response?
  • Are you even going to bother complaining about any problem less serious than completely absent or completely incomprehensible captioning?

When you have a captioning complaint, you need the problem fixed right then and there, and that is exactly what will not happen.

If you do file a written complaint, you will be assured that whatever happened was a one-time occurrence. Until you see the exact same thing again, of course.

In reality, the best that broadcasters are willing to do is to provide some captioning – any captioning – just to fulfill a legal requirement. They can and will ignore your complaint. Unless you are complaining about missing or garbled captions, they can just chalk it up to your opinion versus theirs. And, without any standards in place, they don’t have to listen to your opinion.

Things get much worse if you want to complain about captioning of home video. Whom do you contact at a movie studio? Do you really think they’re going to reissue a DVD (for example) after your single complaint? Of course not. With physical products like DVDs, problems need to be avoided, since they’re impossible to fix after the fact.

Then there are regulators, like the CRTC, the FCC, and Ofcom. They too rely on complaints, but complaints are nearly impossible to file. With rare exceptions, you can depend on regulators to side with broadcasters.