FCC Asked to Consider Extending Accessibility to Streaming Video

FCC headquarters in Washington (Image credit: N/A)

Advocates for video accessibility for the deaf and blind communities want the FCC to seriously consider how to apply captioning and audio description* mandates to video streamers.

That came in meetings earlier this month between acting FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel and groups including the National Association of the Deaf and the American Foundation for the Blind, according to a document filed with the FCC.

Also Read: FCC Gives ESPN COVID-19-Related Break on Audio Descriptions

They want Rosenworcel and the commission to put fresh eyes on the captioning authority they have under the 1996 Telecommunications Act, which at the time it was enacted, they point out, did not "extensively consider" the implications of online video. 

It is a new world, they suggested, with a proliferation of streaming services.

Also Read: Fox News Channel, MSNBC Seek Exemptions from FCC Audio Descriptions

In that same vein, they said the FCC needs to look at audio description outside the top broadcasters and cable networks. For example, descriptions once created for broadcast or cable should persist across platforms, including streaming services, and be available in non-English languages.

The FCC should look seriously at requiring streaming services to include audio descriptions, period, they suggested.

"Streaming services are currently not covered under Commission description rules, though some platforms such as Apple TV+ are independently improving their service," they told Rosenworcel. "Still, many streaming apps that are not native to the video hardware are inaccessible. While Netflix natively built-in to a third generation Apple TV+ has audio description, the Netflix app downloaded onto different third-party hardware may not have the same level of accessibility."

They gave the FCC props for playing a leading role in developing substantive policy around the Twenty-First Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act (CVAA). Now they want Rosenworcel to "reenergize" the CVAA, including by looking to extend that accessibility energy online.

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.