Big Four network affiliates in the top 25 DMAs and cable systems with 50K or more subscribers are now required to insert audio description of on-screen action for the benefit of the visually impaired. But not all the time.
The requirement took affect 7/1/12. It calls for implementation for 50 hours per quarter of prime time and/or children’s programming, which works out to about four hours weekly. ABC, CBS, FOX and NBC affiliates are subject to the new responsibility.
On the cable side, the rule applies to systems that carry the top five-rated basic cable channels, said to be Disney Channel, Nickelodeon, TBS, TNT, and USA. The requirement also applies to prime time and/or children’s programming.
“Video description is audio-narrated descriptions of a television program’s key visual elements inserted into natural pauses in a program’s audio soundtrack,” explained the FCC. “This accessibility feature allows people who are blind and visually impaired to follow a program’s content during television segments that only have visual images.”
The program was put in place by the FCC in compliance with the Twenty-First Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act of 2010, signed into law 10/8/10 by President Barack Obama.
And there’s more, per the FCC. “Additionally, the video description rules require all network-affiliated broadcast stations and MVPD systems to pass through any video description provided with network programming that they carry if they have the technical capability to do so and are not using it for other program-related content. Once a program is aired with descriptions, re-runs of that program must also include video description unless the capability of providing description is being used for other program-related content.”
FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski said, “The Twenty-First Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act is the most significant disabilities legislation since passage of the American with Disabilities Act. In implementing its video description provisions, the Commission is ensuring that for the first time, individuals who are blind or visually impaired will be able to enjoy many television programs along with the rest of the general public.”
Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel also weighed in, saying, “With the start of this month, we reach a new milestone in accessibility with video description. It has been a long time in the making. After all, it was 22 years ago that the Americans with Disabilities Act first became law. It was more than a decade ago that the FCC first plowed new ground and required video description to accompany popular television programming. Though the courts brought this early progress to a halt, Congress stepped in to right this wrong with additional authority and a groundbreaking new law—The Twenty-First Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act. Though there has been delay, the benefit is no less sweet. Now, more than 21 million visually-impaired Americans will be able to access television programming with video description. This widens the range of news and entertainment options available to the visually-impaired and helps facilitate full participation in Twenty-First century life.”