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A Quick Guide on How to Turn On TV Subtitles and Closed Captions

Matthew Patel
Matthew Patel
Posted in Zoom Sep 5 · 7 Sep, 2022
A Quick Guide on How to Turn On TV Subtitles and Closed Captions

Closed captions are similar to TV subtitles, but they are not the same. Captions are the audio part of what you are watching that appear as texts on your TV screen. The texts make it easier for people with hearing disabilities to understand what’s being shown on TV.

The Characteristics of Excellent Closed Captions on TV

US Congress has required video programming distributors (VPDs), such as programming distributors of multi-channel videos, satellite distributors, broadcasters, and cable operators, to provide closed captions to their TV programs.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) implements rules regarding closed captioning. This way, viewers who are hard of hearing or deaf are assured of full access to programming.

Captions used in all television programming must pass the following rules:

  • Properly placed. These captions must not run off the edge of the screen, overlap one another, or block the important visual content on your screen.
  • Complete. The entire program, from start to finish, must run its captions.
  • Synchronous. The closed captions must appear on screen as they are spoken or heard to the greatest extent possible and show at a speed that viewers will have an easy time reading.
  • Accurate. Captions must be the same as the dialogue or sound on the screen, including background noises and descriptions of other sounds to the fullest extent possible.

Closed Captions vs TV Subtitles

tv subtitles

Closed captions and TV subtitles are often mistaken to be the same, but they are not.

Closed captions are like the recreation of on-screen narration and dialogue and descriptions of the character’s tone, background noises, and sounds.

For example, the screen shows a pair talking while a romantic song plays in the background. The closed captions will show what they are saying in text and describe the background sounds typically enclosed in brackets, like [romantic music].

On the other hand, TV subtitles are the text version of the characters’ dialogues. The viewers are often given a choice to choose the language setting of the TV subtitles depending on what language they understand best. You will only see TV subtitles whenever someone is talking on screen.

Closed captions will describe even the dialogues happening offscreen. For example, [The man taps his hands on his knees] will be the description followed by whatever dialogue or other sounds viewers will hear as they watch.

Turning On Closed Captions on Your TV

The process of turning on closed caption depends on your TV set. Some television sets come with a remote control that includes a CC button. If you have this TV, you only need to press the CC button to turn on the closed caption.

For Satellite TV

Here are the steps you have to do to turn on the closed captions on your DISH satellite TV:

  1. The first step depends on the remote you have. Press the Options button if you see it in your remote or the RED button if this is what your remote control has.
  2. Navigate using the arrow buttons until you have chosen Accessibility.
  3. Go to the Closed Captioning option.

Here are the steps to follow to turn on the closed captions in your DIRECTV:

  1. Press the INFO button on your remote control.
  2. Scroll using the arrow buttons and choose CC.
  3. Select Closed Captioning.

That’s it. You will start seeing the closed captions on-screen even if the show doesn’t include TV subtitles.

For Cable TV

Follow these steps to turn on closed captions if you’re using Spectrum:

  1. Using your remote control, go to Menu.
  2. Navigate using the arrow buttons and choose Settings & Support.
  3. Choose Select or OK.
  4. Go to Accessibility.
  5. Use the arrow buttons to navigate, and choose Closed Captioning.
  6. Navigate using the arrow buttons and highlight Save.
  7. Press Select or OK, and you’re done.

For Xfinity with HD TV box:

  1. Select Menu twice until you have accessed Main Menu.
  2. Navigate using the arrow buttons, and press Select or OK.
  3. Navigate using the arrow buttons, and choose Subtitle Setup or Closed Captioning Setup
  4. Choose Select or OK.

If you have an SD TV Box, you will need to turn on the feature on your TV set instead of the remote.

For users of an Advanced TV HD Receiver or Cox:

  1. From your remote control, choose Menu.
  2. Look for the row in the remote with the letters A to D. Choose A.
  3. Navigate using the arrow buttons and select Language.
  4. Use the arrow buttons again and choose Closed Captioning.
  5. Highlight On using the right arrow button.
  6. Choose the Select button.
  7. Press Exit.

If you have a Contour Receiver or an Advanced TV DVR, you can use your remote and press the CC button to turn on Closed Captioning quickly.

For Spectrum clients:

  1. Press Menu on your remote.
  2. Navigate using the arrow buttons until you have selected Settings & Support
  3. Press Select or OK. You should see the Accessibility highlighted.
  4. Navigate again using the arrow buttons and choose Closed Captioning.
  5. Highlight Save using the arrow buttons.
  6. Confirm by pressing Select or OK.

Even though closed captioning is intended for people with hearing disabilities, it can also make it easier for anyone to understand what’s being shown, especially when TV subtitles are unavailable.

While it is still impossible to turn on the feature in live television broadcasts, you can turn it on when watching pre-recorded TV shows.


There are many benefits when you have TV subtitles and closed captions in any video production. If you intend to develop one, make it viewer-friendly and boost your viewership by ensuring you have accurate closed captions. It’s better to outsource the closed captioning process to the pros, such as GoTranscript, instead of getting free captioning services that are unreliable and prone to errors. With excellent closed captioning, your viewers will rely more on it than the TV subtitles. Your goal is to make them enjoy watching while the closed captions are turned on.