FCC Announces New Rules Governing Video Described Programming for Visually Impaired

the top networks will have to carry 87.5 hours of compliant programming per quarter

FCC Announces New Rules Governing Video Described Programming for Visually Impaired
Image: Pixabay
july 12, 2017

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has announced that it is adopting new rules designed to make it easier for the blind and visually impaired to access video described programming.

Video description (also known as audio description) allows people with limited vision to hear a description of on-screen activity while also following the dialogue, providing a more rewarding entertainment experience. The new rules will ensure that the service is available to those who rely on it.

The New Requirements

Beginning in July 2018, broadcasters and pay-TV providers carrying one of the top networks must provide 87.5 hours of described programming per calendar quarter, which averages out to roughly one hour per day of description on each included network. This is an increase of 75 percent over the 50 hours per quarter presently required.

The networks currently covered by the rule are ABC, CBS, Fox, NBC, Disney Channel, History, TBS, TNT, and USA. However, this list is subject to change, as the top five nonbroadcast networks will be updated in July 2018.

Communications and Video Accessibility Act

The new rules are the FCC's effort to comply with the 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act (CVAA), signed in 2010 by Congress.

Video description is provided through the TV or set top box "secondary audio" feature, which some TV controls identify as "SAP" or "secondary audio program."

According to the National Federation of the Blind, more than 7 million Americans have a visual disability.