Fox News, MSNBC Seek Audio Description Rule Exemption

(Image credit: NBCUniversal)

WASHINGTON—Both Fox News and MSNBC were ranked in the top five national non-broadcast networks by the FCC, however each is seeking to be exempt from the list so that they will not be subject to the FCC’s audio description rules that come with that designation.

Networks designated among the top five national non-broadcast networks (serving more than 50,000 or more subscribers) are required to provide 87.5 hours of audio description per calendar quarter. There is a loophole, though, that Fox News and MSNBC are officially requesting to be classified under.

When the FCC issued the list of top 10 national non-broadcast networks in November, it said that any network that wishes to be excluded on the basis that it does not air “at least 50 hours per quarter of prime-time programming that is not live or near-live” can seek exemption from the list.

Both Fox News and MSNBC argue that because their prime-time lineup is primarily news-based that they do not meet the 50 hour per quarter threshold. Fox says that 20 hours of its daily content is live or near live; MSNBC says it averages 42 hours of non-live programming a quarter. 

Both networks received the exemption when they were classified as top five national non-broadcast networks in 2018.

The FCC updates its top five non-broadcast networks every three years. The new ranking, which is based on 2019 and 2020 ratings, goes into effect on July 1, 2021.

Fox News and MSNBC’s filings are available through the FCC’s electronic comment filing system.