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NCTA Tweaks Request for Video Description Relief

NCTA-The Internet & Television Association has modified its request for relief from the quarterly video-described programming requirement mandated in the Twenty-First Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act of 2010.

Under that requirement, beginning next month broadcast and cable networks must air 87.5 hours of video-described programming per quarter.

In a petition for partial reconsideration, NCTA said the total amount of such programming would meet or exceed that requirement, and it wanted more flexibility when it came to repeats.

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Under the current rules, the FCC only counts one repeat airing, while NCTA noted that nonbroadcast networks contain a "significant amount" of repeats that could not be counted. Cable networks often air multiple episodes of a series in a single day, including roadblocking a half dozen or more back-to-back.

NCTA said it wants either a presumptive waiver or safe harbor for those repeat-heavy lineups, but that after conversations with the blind and visually impaired community, it is is willing to condition such a waiver on a network certifying that it will provide at least 1,000 hours per quarter of video-described programming, without a limit on how many of those are repeats, and that it will video-describe 75% of new, non-live programming that airs between 6 a.m. and midnight.

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NCTA also proposed that the FCC modify the rules to allow networks to "refresh" their repeat tallies.

"Once a particular non-broadcast network has counted its one repeat of a video-described program toward compliance," NCTA said, "the rules do not allow that network to ever count that same video-described program again toward compliance, no matter how many years have passed... [T]he Commission should 'allow the cycle for counting repeats to start over after a period of years."

NCTA said that should be the case "given the lasting appeal of many of these programs, the lengthy contract terms governing their exhibition, and children ‘aging up’ into the audience demographic for certain repeat programming."

John Eggerton
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.