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FCC video description rules kick in for broadcasters, MVPD systems

Broadcast affiliates of the top four national networks in the 25 largest markets and MVPD systems with more than 50,000 subscribers were required to begin complying with the Federal Communications Commission's video description rules as of July 1.

The descriptions, inserted into natural pauses in a program's audio soundtrack, are audio narrations describing key visual elements of a TV program, which make programs accessible for people who are blind or visually impaired.

The Twenty-First Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act of 2010, signed into law Oct. 8, 2010, directed the agency to reinstate with 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 of video-described prime time and/or children's programming.

The covered MVPD systems, when they carry any of the top five nonbroadcast networks, including 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 MVPD systems to pass through any video description provided with network programming that they carry 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.