NAB: FCC Lacks Authority to Boost Video Described Programming

Broadcasters and cable operators are on the same page when it comes to video described programming.

That is providing programming for the blind and sight-impaired is important, that they already overdeliver on FCC requirements—though don't get credit for it (only primetime and children's programming count toward the current 50-hour-per calendar quarter requirement)—but that the FCC's proposed expansion of that programming is beyond its authority.

The National Association of Broadcasters filed comments at the FCC on its Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM), approved last March, to boost the amount of that programming and the number of networks required to provide it.

Like the National Cable & Telecommunications Association, NAB has told the FCC that, per statute, it can't increase the number of networks required to provide video described programming and can't apply the requirement to a top five network—or top 10 if another proposed FCC change is approved—after it has fallen out of that ranking (the so-called "no backsliding" provision).

In its filing, NAB said: "These rule changes would exceed the Commission’s statutory authority and impose undue burdens on providers. First, adoption of the proposals would be arbitrary and capricious because the Commission fails to meet its statutory mandate to justify additional rules based on a meaningful cost-benefit analysis of the video description rules. Second, even if the Commission had fulfilled this mandate, the CVAA [The Twenty First Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act of 2010] does not authorize the Commission to increase the number of networks covered by the rules or adopt the no backsliding proposal. Finally, NAB urges the Commission to gradually phase-in any rules ultimately adopted, and provide flexibility to providers required to meet the higher quota."

The FCC is proposing to boost the quarterly requirement to 87.5 hours.

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.