FCC Proposes Expanding Video Description Mandate

The FCC is proposing to require 40 more markets (DMAs 61-100) to provide audio descriptions of video programming but also wants to know if the current pandemic changes any part of the equation. 

Per the Twenty-First Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act of 2010 (CVAA), FCC rules currently require certain stations in the top 60 markets to provide that service to the blind and visually impaired. 

A Notice of Proposed Rulemaking circulated by FCC Chairman Ajit Pai to the other commissioners this week for a vote at the April 23 meeting would: 

  • "Seek comment on whether we should account for the current coronavirus pandemic in evaluating the reasonableness of costs of expanding video description requirements to markets outside of the top 60, and in making a determination regarding the compliance deadline, and, if so, how. 
  • "Start phasing in the new markets starting Jan. 2, 2021 at a rate of 10 markets per year for four years.
  • "Propose that the Commission should determine in 2023 whether to continue expanding to an additional 10 DMAs per year, with any further expansion to be undertaken only following a future determination of the reasonableness of the associated costs.
  • "Conclude, tentatively, that 'the costs of implementing the video description regulations in these markets are reasonable' because that would 'ensure that a greater number of individuals who are blind or visually impaired can be connected, informed, and entertained by television programming.'
  • "Propose that, in determining which DMAs are subject to the video description requirements, the Commission should use an updated Nielsen determination rather than the current figures, which are from 2015."
  • "Propose to modernize the terminology in part 79 of the Commission’s regulations to use the term 'audio description' rather than 'video description,' in accordance with a recent recommendation from the Commission’s Disability Advisory Committee."
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.