FCC Reinstates Video Description Programming

Video description rules were originally adopted by the commission in 2000.
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The U.S. government is reinstating a rule requiring video description programming by large-market broadcast affiliates of the top four national networks, and multichannel video programming distributor systems (MVPDS) with more than 50,000 subscribers.

On Sept. 8, the Federal Communications Commission posted a Federal Register Notice—Video Description: Implementation of the Twenty-First Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act of 2010—which says this order reinstates the video description rules adopted by the commission in 2000.

“Video description” is the insertion of audio narrated descriptions of a television program’s key visual elements into natural pauses in the program’s dialogue, which makes video programming more accessible to individuals who are blind or visually impaired, the notice says.

The FCC’s order reinstates the requirement that large-market broadcast affiliates of the top four national networks, and MVPDS with more than 50,000 subscribers, provide video description.

The order also reinstates the requirement that all network-affiliated broadcasters (commercial or non-commercial) and all MVPDS pass through any video description provided with network programming they carry, to the extent that they are technically capable of doing so and when that technical capability is not being used for another purpose related to the programming.

The FCC originally adopted video description regulations in 2000, but the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit vacated the video description rules on the grounds the FCC had insufficient authority to impose such regulations, according to the commission. However, the Twenty-First Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act of 2010 (P.L. 111-260) directs the FCC to reinstate those rules with certain modifications. The new video description rule becomes effective Oct. 11, 2011, with Oct. 1, 2012 as the final compliance date.

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