FCC Puts White Spaces, Audio Descriptions on October Meeting Agenda

(Image credit: FCC)

WASHINGTON—FCC Chairman Ajit Pai has set out the agenda for the commission's October meeting, with a pair of key TV industry issues expected to be up for votes.

The first will revolve around TV white space. There has been much debate over who should be allowed to operate in the 600 MHz spectrum and what potential interference concerns could occur as a result, but the vote to take place during the October meeting will seek to, as Chairman Pai puts it, expand devices’ ability to provide broadband coverage in rural and unserved areas, as well as help narrowband Internet of Things devices operate in TV white spaces. Pai claims that the new rules would still protect TV broadcasters already operating in the band.

“We expect that these changes will spur continued growth of the white space ecosystem and help close the digital divide,” said Pai.

The other item on the agenda involves audio description. Audio description—previously known as video description but being changed at the recommendation of disability rights advocates—helps make TV programming accessible to blind or visually impaired people by inserting a narrated audio description of the program’s key visual elements at breaks in the dialogue. The vote will seek to expand the reach of the FCC’s audio description rules to an additional 10 markets per year over the next four years; currently the top 60 markets require the rules for certain commercial TV broadcast stations.

Additional items on the agenda have to do with 5G, net neutrality and digital conversion of AM stations.

The FCC October Open Commission Meeting is scheduled to take place on Oct. 27.