Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Comcast must pay up $500,000, must make sure set top boxes pass through captioning

From COAT Access:

On January 18, 2011, the FCC’s Enforcement Bureau entered into a Consent Decree (voluntary agreement) with Comcast to resolve consumer complaints brought against the cable TV company. These complaints said that Comcast’s set top boxes did not pass through closed captioning, as required by FCC rules. Kudos to the April 2010 complainant and others who alerted the FCC about these problems!

The Consent Decree ends an FCC investigation and requires Comcast to do certain things for the next two years to make sure its set top boxes pass through closed captioning. As part of the settlement, Comcast will also make a voluntary $500,000 contribution to the United States Treasury. Other action they must take includes:

•Within 120 days, Comcast must start reviewing its procedures for testing the set top boxes used by its customers to make sure that the boxes pass through closed captions.

•Within 60 days after this review, Comcast must revise its testing procedures and test its set top boxes, including set top boxes already in customers’ homes, to make sure the equipment passes through captions.

•If Comcast finds that its set top boxes are not passing through closed captions, it must notify the Enforcement Bureau within 30 days. This applies to situations where a number of set top boxes are having problems passing through the captions.

•Comcast will regularly monitor its testing procedures and modify them as needed for the next 2 years.

•Comcast must send reports to the Enforcement Bureau in January 2012 and in January 2013 to show that they are complying with the Consent Decree.

The pertinent FCC rule reads as follows: 47 CFR §79.1(c) Obligation to pass through captions of already captioned programs. All video programming distributors shall deliver all programming received from the video programming owner or other origination source containing closed captioning to receiving television households with the original closed captioning data intact in a format that can be recovered and displayed by decoders meeting the standards of part 15 of this chapter unless such programming is recaptioned or the captions are reformatted by the programming distributor. See at 47 CFR §79.1(c)

Consumers with complaints about set-top boxes lack of pass through of captions, whether their TV distributor is Comcast or another company, can file complaints via FCC online form here (provide details of TV channel, program name, dates and times).