Complaint against Rogers Broadcasting

The Illegal Captions project of CAPTIONING SUCKS! lodges thoroughly researched and well-founded complaints against missing or inadequate captioning. Every TV broadcaster in Canada has been targetted. You’re next

Rogers Broadcasting and two of its licensed broadcasters, CITY-TV Toronto and OLN, demonstrate a knowing and intentional pattern of:

  1. Providing no captioning at all.
  2. Destroying existing pop-on captioning for prerecorded fictional programming.
  3. Using real-time captioning for prerecorded (sometimes years-old) nonfiction programming.
  4. Using real-time captioning for prerecorded fictional programming.
  5. Airing programs with some other program’s captioning.

Contravention of existing policy

Rogers is in flagrant, repeated, systematic, knowing, and consistent violation of the Commission’s existing, albeit completely inadequate and illegal, captioning policy, CRTC 2007-54, whose ¶17 states (emphasis added):

English- and French-language broadcasters will be required to caption 100% of their programs… over the broadcast day, with the exception of advertising and promos. This requirement will be subject to exceptions that take into account instances, but not patterns, of equipment/technical malfunctions and human errors that are beyond the broadcaster’s control, or circumstances beyond the broadcaster’s control where captioning may not be available. In the case of any complaint, the onus will be on the broadcaster to demonstrate that the situation falls within this limited set of exceptions. The Commission notes that programs must be captioned in their entirety to qualify as captioned for the purposes of this obligation.


Illegal Captions took notes during normal viewing of CITY-TV and OLN. We also carried out two intensive periods of data collection in which we recorded the entire evening telecasts of CITY (1900 to 2300 hours or 2000 to 0000 hours) on January 5–9 and June 20 and 22–25, 2009. We waited after the first data collection to see if the problems spontaneously resolved; they did not, so we waited and reran the data collection.

The results are the same and reinforce our earliest observations. From the very month Rogers took over CITY and (later) OLN, captioning has gone to pot. Station ownership is the determining factor; that is, things weren’t this bad before Rogers took over.

Results from data collection

Monday, 2009.01.05

Tuesday, 2009.01.06

Wednesday, 2009.01.07

Thursday, 2009.01.08

Friday, 2009.01.09

Saturday, 2009.06.20

Monday, 2009.06.22

Tuesday, 2009.06.23

Wednesday, 2009.06.24

Thursday, 2009.06.25

Results from notetaking

No captioning whatsoever

Fictional programming shown with scrollup captioning

Additionally, we have noticed more than one episode of Ugly Betty, known to be available with pop-on captioning, that was nonetheless aired with real-time captioning.

Fictional programming shown with real-time captioning


CITY-TV cannot manage the task of airing programming with intact original pop-on captions.

No broadcaster in recent or even distant memory has been so incompetent at the basic task of airing precaptioned programming with captions intact as CITY-TV.

Findings (OLN)

The Outdoor Life Network, now also owned by Rogers, is visibly incapable of providing any form of captioning on years-old television repeats.

Due to the tedium and irrelevance of most OLN programming, we surveyed only one program – The Amazing Race, stripped five nights a week on OLN. There are no original or never-aired episodes of this program; all episodes are repeats from the early 2000s to present. Episodes viewed from May 2009 to present all exhibit the following features in unpredictable sequence:

We expect that, on receipt of this complaint, Rogers will do the absolute minimum to bring The Amazing Race into bare compliance. We will then simply examine other series on OLN and file amended complaints. The problems are clearly not confined to this specific program; they stem from Rogers’s managerial incompetence.

Lifetime achievement award:
Running the wrong captions

In the broadcasting equivalent of a surgeon’s amputating the wrong leg, Rogers, unique among broadcasters, shows a pattern of airing episodes of one program with captioning from other programs. How this is even technically possible we do not understand, but the company that brought you negative-option billing and Internet throttling has managed it.

As these scenarios border on the incredible, we have included photographs (30 Rock; Amazing Race).

‘30 Rock’ episode showing scrollup captions from an unrelated news program
‘Amazing Race’ episode showing pop-on caption from a commercial: I GET READY FOR EVERYTHING AT WAL-MART. [ Chuckles ]

Patterns of noncompliance

Our evidence unequivocally shows patterns of noncompliance. Problems do not have to occur every single time to constitute a pattern; if that were true, then The Amazing Race would be legally admissible as an adequately captioned program because one episode used near-verbatim scrollup even though all other episodes are a mess.

We have documented patterns of absent captioning, misuse of real-time and scrollup captioning, and insertion of incorrect captions. Another documented pattern attests that Rogers cannot retain known pop-on captioning in programming it airs.

The CRTC despises captioning as much as Rogers does, or at least views captioning as just as much of an irritant. The Commission goes to extreme lengths to endorse, enable, and excuse inadequate or absent captioning. In Decision 2009-410, TVA admitted it did not live up to its captioning requirements. All the CRTC did was “note” TVA’s “efforts” without imposing a penalty. Lifeguards make “efforts” to save swimmers in distress, but they don’t get a gold star and a pat on the back when victims drown anyway. The Commission cannot get away with that sort of appeasement here, having given away its very last get-out-of-jail-free card.

The CRTC is obligated to rigorously enforce its captioning rules. We return to the stated policy as applied to the Rogers case:

Remedies sought

We’ll be spending the rest of the year, and all of next year, and all of any subsequent years as deemed necessary, filing complaints against every broadcaster in Canada. We’ll eventually get what we want, and the longer the CRTC and broadcasters fight us, the more it’s going to cost you once we win.

This complaint represents the Commission’s first chance to rule that:

We petition for such a ruling, which must apply to all English- and French-language broadcasters. We’ll keep filing complaints until we get the ruling we want. Now’s your big chance.

We require additional remedies specific to Rogers. For all its licensed television operations, whether in English, French, or a third language, Rogers must publish monthly reports on category and extent of captioning for all programming. If we can do it, they can do it. Rogers must report the following:

In Decision 2009-408, the Commission imposed new reporting requirements on CITY-TV:

Rogers is required to file, for the upcoming year, detailed monthly programming reports, in addition to submitting television logs, to assure the Commission that it is meeting its regulatory requirements. The reports should contain sufficient details, such as the titles of programs and the date and time programs are broadcast, in order to allow the Commission to evaluate the CITY-TV stations’ compliance with all of their programming obligations, commitments and expectations.

Those “obligations, commitments and expectations” include captioning. We petition the CRTC to amend Decision 2009-408 to include the captioning details we demand.

Such reports cannot be private; they must be published in valid, semantic HTML on a publicly accessible Web site without password protection. No other formats, including Excel or PDF, may be used, as they would surely be inaccessible to people with disabilities as produced by Rogers.

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