How to file a complaint

Sometimes, despite the best efforts of television broadcasters and stations, captioning can be unintelligible for some television programs. This can be due to problems with the closed captioning signal, and reaching out to the service provider (the company that takes care of your television services) can help.

Most service providers offer troubleshooting guidelines in the Owner’s Manual provided with the set top box (the device that converts a digital television signal to analog for viewing on a conventional set, or that enables cable or satellite television to be viewed), some also offer a webpage for Frequently Asked Questions – for some issues, the user may be able to troubleshoot them, but if these do not work it is important to contact the service provider directly. Although all companies offer a telephone number to contact for help (typically found on the monthly cable/satellite/internet bill), some also offer an email address or a short-message chat service through their website.

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Following up with the Service Provider

When contacting the Provider, the following information will be needed:

  • The customer’s full name
  • The account number associated with the customer’s television services, as well as
  • The date, time and program that the issue was first noticed

Describing the problem as clearly and concisely as possible will help the Service Provider pinpoint what could be causing the issue:

  • Is the captioning cutting in and out, but is partially intelligible?
  • Are the captions gibberish, with no recognizable words?
  • Do the captions make sense, but do not follow the content of the program?
  • Are there no captions at all, but you can see the transparent bar at the bottom of the screen where they are usually displayed?

Include important information, such as:

  • What steps have been taken to try and solve the problem. Keep written notes of the customer service representative’s name, and the date/time of conversations.
  • The service provider will need to know the customers preferred method of contact.

What to expect from the Service Provider

Often, when the Service Provider responds to the issue, they will use a standard troubleshooting checklist to make sure nothing has been missed. This will include looking for issues on their end. They may reboot the system, or remotely connect with the set top box to find out what is causing the problem. They may also schedule a representative to visit the home to try and isolate the issue.

It is important to note all Service Providers want to correct captioning problems and depends on complaints from their viewers to do so. It is also one of the ways in which they track their viewer’s reactions. If viewers do not contact them, the Service Provider will not know about the problem and will not attempt to resolve it. To locate and fix problems, it can often take several days to get the problem resolved.

To access a list of Canadian television, internet and radio providers, please refer to to the booklet “Full Access: A Guide for Broadcasting Accessibility for Canadians living with hearing loss

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Filing a Complaint with the CRTC

If the customer has reached an impasse trying to troubleshoot problems with accessibility features with the Service Provider, a complaint can be filed with the CRTC directly.

The CRTC requires all complaints to be made in writing, with the customer’s full name included (the CRTC does not follow up on complaints made anonymously). Remember: Be sure to file a complaint within 4 weeks of noticing the issue with accessibility as Broadcasters are only required to keep recordings of their broadcasts for that amount of time, and they may not have access to them after this period.

When writing a complaint, include the following information:

  • The customers full name, and an email or postal address
  • a description of the problem and/or concerns
  • the radio or TV station’s name or call sign, and location
  • the date, time and name of the program or ad
  • the name and location of the Service Provider (i.e., cable company, satellite provider, or wireless distribution service), where applicable.

Anyone can file a complaint with the CRTC without fear of retaliation from any company, but they do have a right to review the complaint and respond to it. Complaints are handled by CRTC Client Services. Once a complaint is filed it will be reviewed and the complainant should receive a reply within 10 business days to confirm how it will be handled.

If your Service Provider does not respond within 20 calendar days, the CRTC will send a written reminder. If there is still no answer, the CRTC raises all unanswered complaints with the company when it applies to renew its license.

If your complaint alleges that the company violated the Broadcasting Act or CRTC policies or regulations, CRTC staff will decide if any further process or regulatory action is required. Although very uncommon, it is possible for a Service Provider to have their license renewal denied if the company fails to address violations of the Broadcasting Act or CRTC policies. Most of the time, Broadcasters work to resolve any issues forwarded by the CRTC to maintain their licensing.

There are three different ways a complaint can be filed to the CRTC

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