FCC Delays Ruling on Audio Description Expansion

The FCC most likely won’t act upon any rulings Post-Election

FCC Building
FCC Delays Audio Description Expansion, along with several other high-profile regulations

Many blind and individuals with low-vision are frustrated after an item regarding audio description expansion (referred to as video description by the FCC) was deleted from the FCC’s November 17th open meeting agenda.

Audio description is a verbal representation of visual information in a television program or movie and provides accessibility to millions of Americans.

Currently, the FCC requires the top four broadcast networks’ local affiliates (ABC, CBS, FOX, NBC) in the top 60 broadcast markets to describe 50 hours per quarter of prime time and/or children’s television programming.

Further, the top five non-broadcast networks according to Nielsen ratings (Disney Channel, History, TBS, TNT and USA) must also describe 50 hours per quarter of prime time and/or children’s television programming.

The FCC released a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) on April 1, 2016 that would expand the requirements for audio description, particularly increasing in the requirement of audio description from 50 hours per quarter to 87.5 hours per quarter.

The measure would have also increased the number of included networks required to audio describe from the four broadcast and five non-broadcast networks to five broadcast and 10 non-broadcast networks.

The agenda item was pulled from the open meeting due to the current political climate, in which Commissioners of the FCC are urged not to act upon any regulations before January’s Presidential Inauguration.  This is reportedly common practice, regardless of political party, as Commissioners under President Bush’s administration were urged to do the same before the Inauguration of President Obama in January 2009.

Usually, measures that are considered “complex, partisan, or otherwise controversial,” are tabled, so many are optimistic that the seemingly non-partisan issue of increasing accessibility still has a chance of happening at either the FCC’s next open meeting on December 15th, or beyond.

VITAC proudly offers audio description services for consumers who are blind and low-sighted, and was also disappointed to learn of the delay of audio description expansion. We are also still hopeful and excited at the possibility of this new regulation and will stay atop of any new development.

By Brittany Bender

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