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FCC Video Description Rules Are Now In Effect

WASHINGTON:A reminder from the FCC today: As of July 1, 2012, broadcast affiliates of the top four national networks in the 25 largest markets and MVPD systems with more than 50,000 subscribers must comply with the Federal Communications Commission’s video description rules. Video description is audio-narrated descriptions of a television program’s key visual elements inserted into natural pauses in a program’s audio soundtrack. The feature allows people who are blind and visually impaired to follow a program’s content during television segments that only have visual images. 

The Twenty-First Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act of 2010, signed into law by President Obama on Oct. 8, 2010, directed the commission to reinstate with some modifications the video description rules initially adopted in 2000. The FCC’s new rules require covered broadcast affiliates of ABC, CBS, FOX and NBC located in the top 25 TV markets to provide 50 hours per calendar quarter (approximately four hours per week) of video-described prime time and/or children’s programming. The covered cable and satellite systems, when they carry any of the top five non-broadcast networks, i.e., the Disney Channel, Nickelodeon, TBS, TNT, and USA, must also provide 50 hours per calendar of video-described prime time and/or children’s programming. 

Additionally, the video description rules require all network-affiliated broadcast stations and multichannel video providers to pass through any network-provided video description 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.