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05.06.2005
Originally featured on BroadcastEngineering.com
Video description bill gets boost from McCain

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) last week introduced legislation that would require broadcasters to add video descriptions to at least 50 hours of primetime or kids shows per quarter. The descriptions would address significant plot points and action that is seen but not heard in the program.

The system works by inserting narration into programming through a special frequency. Congress eliminated about $1 million a year in federal funding for narration of primetime entertainment shows in 2004. McCain would reinstate the video description rules and authorize FCC oversight.

Video description technology was developed by Metropolitan Washington Ear, an advocacy group, and Boston’s WGBH-TV. It first aired in 1987 on the PBS American Playhouse series. Both McCain and Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) unsuccessfully attempted to reinstate the rules in the last Congress.

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