Video Description Deadline is July 1, 2012
WASHINGTON: TV will describe itself by this time next year,
or at least in certain markets. The Federal Communications Commission today
issued its Report and Order on video description, an audio service intended to
assist blind people’s access to TV content. The top four network
affiliates--NBC, CBS, Fox and ABC--in the 25 largest markets, plus pay TV systems
with more than 50,000 subscribers, will have to implement video description by
July 1, 2012.
Those operations will have to provide at least 50 hours per calendar quarter of
video-described programming, in some combination of prime time and/or
children’s content. Affected cable operators will have to do the same for the
top five non-broadcast networks they carry. Repeats won’t count toward the
total. Exemptions will be considered for near-live or live programming such as
breaking news, and for economic hardship.
All TV stations, regardless of market size, must pass through network-provided
video description feeds if they have the technical capability to do so. Same
goes for cable operators of any size--they have to pass through video
descriptions for both broadcast and non-broadcast nets that provide it, if they
are able. Stations that become affiliates in the top 25 markets will be
required to comply with video description rules within three months of when
their affiliation agreement is finalized.
Video description rules were approved by the FCC in 2000 and struck down in
court two years later. They were resurrected last year in the “Twenty-First
Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act of 2010,” for reinstatement
on Oct. 8, 2011. The deadline for implementation is July 1, 2012--six months
out from the date originally suggested in the commission’s Notice of Proposed
Rulemaking. There is no specific language associated with the ruling.
The Consumer Electronic Association is developing a standard for receiver
manufacturers for equipment selection and navigation of multiple audio streams,
including video description. Broadcasters now frequently use a Secondary Audio
Program for languages other than English. The standard, CEA-CEB-21, Recommended
Practice for Selection and Presentation of DTV Audio, went to ballot earlier
~ Deborah D. McAdams