RCA Cables and Closed Captions?

Does anyone know if RCA cables can transmit closed captions? I have an SD cable box (not HD) that is now connected via RCA cables instead of the coax cable; and, I’m not able to figure out how to get the closed captions.

The cable company insists that I need to upgrade to an HD cable box to receive the closed captions. I do not want to do this.

The coax cable is not an option either due to the fact that the picture becomes extremely snowy. Cable tech that came out explained that the connector on the tv is likely loose due to the twisting motion and lack of strain relief on the component(s) for coax connectors. I had already tried switching the box with the one in the bedroom and had the same issue.

Thank you,

My Tivo has the cable cards in it to decode the cable channels, it’s the device that does the CC decode. It connects to the TV via the same video/audio setup you have.

Can you post the model of the cable box you have?

It’s a DCT1700/US.

I also have a blu-ray player that I can connect via HDMI, if that will help the situation at all.


Analog closed caption is encoded in the vertical blanking interval (VBI) on… line 21 IIRC. In other words, it’s in the picture, literally.

RCA cables will have no problem transmitting it, if the device is sending it. Most digital devices dropping to an analog connection won’t, as it would need to be re-encoded to that standard (see below), and they just aren’t natively compatible.

If you have an analog source (eg VHS tape) it should work, but if it’s from that digital cable box, the video stream it received doesn’t have the subtitles in the VBI like old analog TV does. Best hope would be to have the cable box display the subtitles itself, not the receiving TV.

(Technical details follow, feel free to skip)

Most Cable TV is delivered digitally to your cable box now, and that stream is (usually to almost always) MPEG II TS, with 1 video, 1 (or more) audio streams (eg stereo and a 5.1) and a separate subtitle stream. The format of that stream can vary a bit, but it’s normally just text.

On a blu-ray (or DVD) player, you have much the same, the stream encoding is a bit different, and the audio/video codecs are different (higher quality) too. On the discs the subtitles are actually encoded as video overlays, pictures, on the disc.

No digital cable box, or DVD/Bluray player will “convert” those subtitle streams into the text encoding in the VBI. How do you convert a picture to text from a bluray? And most cable boxes are trending toward digital devices, supporting old analog closed caption just isn’t worth the investment.

It sounds like the cable box is not sending the captions to the tv, but rather that the tv was the device that was doing the actual captioning. I think I’m out of luck unless I decide to spend more money on an HD box.

Thanks for the explanation of how it works, bdaroz.