How to Turn on Closed Captions on Your TV

Content creators and broadcasters are increasingly striving to be as accessible as possible to their audiences. Closed captions on television are now more frequent and used by a large part of the population, and not just the deaf and hard of hearing community.


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Before we dig into how to turn on closed captions on your TV, let’s first address what they are, when are closed captions required, and who can benefit from closed captions on TV.

What Are Closed Captions on TV?

Sometimes mistaken for the same thing, subtitles on your TV and closed captioning CC are two different tools that serve different purposes. While subtitles show a text version of the dialogues of characters as they appear on the screen, translated or not, closed captions recreate on-screen dialogue and narration, describe background sounds and noises, and even tell viewers the characters’ tone.

For example, imagine a tense scene in a horror movie that has dialogue but also has mood-setting noises happening in the background. Closed captions will recreate the conversation in text, just like subtitles would, but also describe the background sounds, usually within brackets like [ominous music].

Unlike subtitles that are only shown when the characters appear, closed captions will let viewers know if a dialogue is happening offscreen.

how to turn closed captions on TV

When Are Closed Captions Required?

Closed captions are a legal requirement for all content that’s publicly broadcast and televised following the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Rehabilitation Act, and the 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act. That also includes all streaming services.
How companies ensure that all their content is closed captioned, of course, varies. Apple, for example, enforces strict policies when it comes to closed captioning all content available on iTunes, removing the content that doesn’t comply. Legal requirements aside, closed captioning is now more of a necessity than a good-to-have feature.

Who Benefits From Closed Captions on TV?

Initially, the deaf and hard of hearing community was the main target of closed captions on TV. But people without a hearing impairment are also choosing to watch TV with closed captions on. Here are some of the reasons why you may want to do the same:

  • The language of your favorite show or movie is your second language.
  • You live with a light sleeper or have small children and need to watch TV on mute.
  • You feel you pay more attention to the narrative if CC is on.
  • You have difficulty understanding a specific accent or the person talking is a well-known mumbler.

How to Turn Closed Captions on Your TV

Turning on closed captions is not the same process for all TV sets, but we’ll take you through it, step-by-step. In some TV it’s as simple as pressing the CC button on your remote control, while others require a little more setting up.

How to Turn Closed Captions on for Cable TV

Whether you’re on Xfinity, Spectrum, or Cox, turning on closed captions for cable TV will require a series of steps using your remote control.

Clients using Spectrum:

  1. Press the Menu button on your remote control
  2. Use the arrow buttons to select Settings & Support
  3. Press the OK/Select button
  4. The first highlighted option should be Accessibility
  5. Use the arrow buttons to select Closed Captioning
  6. Use the arrow buttons to highlight Save
  7. Press the OK/Select button to confirm

For clients using Cox, the instructions vary depending on what type of equipment you have.

If you’re using Cox and have an Advanced TV HD Receiver:

  1. Press the Menu button on your remote
  2. Check for a row of buttons with the letters A, B, C, and D on the remote and press the letter A
  3. Scroll to the Language section by using the arrow buttons
  4. Use the arrow buttons again to scroll to Closed Captioning and press the right arrow button
  5. Use the right arrow button to highlight On
  6. Press the Select button
  7. Finish the setting up by pressing the Exit button

If you have an Advanced TV DVR or a Contour Receiver, you should be able to access Closed Captioning by merely pressing the CC button on your remote.

Turning on closed captions for clients using Xfinity is also different depending on which device you’re using.

Here’s a step-by-step guide for Xfinity clients with an HD TV Box:

  1. On your remote control press the Menu button twice to access the Main Menu
  2. Navigate to Setup by using the arrow buttons on your remote
  3. On the remote control, press the OK/Select button and use the arrow buttons to navigate to Closed Captioning Setup or Subtitle Setup
  4. Press the OK/Select button to turn on Closed Captioning

Xfinity clients with an SD TV Box will have to turn on Closed Captioning on their TV sets instead.

How to Turn Closed Captions on for Satellite TV

For satellite TV clients, whether you’re with DIRECTV or Dish, turning closed captioning involves just a few steps.

Turning on closed captions for DIRECTV is a fast and straightforward three-step process:

  1. On your remote control press the INFO button
  2. Use the arrow buttons to scroll and select CC
  3. Select the option Closed Captioning

For clients using Dish, the process of turning closed captioning on is also simple, with just one change depending on what remote control you have. Here are the three steps to follow:

  1. If your remote has a RED button, press that once. If your remote has an Options Button, press that twice.
  2. Using the arrow buttons, navigate to Accessibility
  3. Navigate to the option Closed Captioning
  4. Watching TV Becomes a Fully Immersive Experience

Now that you learned the different ways of turning on closed caption options on your TV, watching your favorite shows will never be the same again.

For now, only pre-recorded TV shows use closed captioning. Maybe this feature will be added to live television broadcasts in the future following the steps of Facebook and YouTube. Both began adding real-time captions to their videos in 2017 and 2018, respectively.