NAB Seeks Delay of Video Description Expansion

The National Association of Broadcasters has asked the FCC to give stations in markets 61-100 more time before they are made subject to the FCC's video description rules, which were mandated in the Twenty-First Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act of 2010. 

Under the rules, broadcasters and cable operators must air a minimum number of video-described hours of programming per week. Those are the audio descriptions--for the blind or visually impaired--of key visual elements in a program (i.e., "he smiles ruefully," or "scene changes to New York street"). 

The FCC voted in April to propose requiring 40 more markets (DMAs 61-100) to provide audio descriptions of video programming starting Jan. 2, 2020. But it also wanted to know if the current pandemic changes any part of the equation. 

Related: NCTA Tweaks Request for Video Description Relief 

NAB said "yes." While it told the FCC in comments filed this week that most broadcasters should be able to hit the deadline, that may not be the case for some, particularly independent stations, particularly given the economic hit they have taken from the COVID-19 pandemic. While TV viewing is up, advertising dollars are down given that the pandemic has taken a toll on many of the businesses whose ads support free local TV. 

It also cited the fact that the deadline does not sync with station budgeting cycles. 

NAB wants the FCC to extend the deadline for compliance by 10 months, to Oct. 1, 2021. 

This reasonable nine-month extension would provide TV stations the time needed to evaluate, incorporate and reflect the costs of video description in their budgets," NAB said. "Forcing stations to interrupt midstream or to re-open their budget process would be unwise and unnecessary. More importantly, a slight delay will allow broadcasters time to pivot onto more stable financial ground as the pandemic hopefully dissipates during the coming months."

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.