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FCC Considers Update to Increase Audio Description Requirements

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    FCC Regulations for Audio Description

    The 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act (CVAA) requires that modern communications technologies be made accessible to all people regardless of vision and/or hearing loss. In implementing the CVAA, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) set regulations for implementing audio description on video content intended for children and for prime-time viewing. The rules on video description required that ABC, CBS, Fox, NBC, USA, the Disney Channel, TNT, Nickelodeon, and TBS each provide 50 hours of video-described prime time for children’s programming per calendar quarter by 2012. On July 1, 2015, the 50 hours per week requirement expanded to the top 60 TV markets, and the next scheduled increase is set for July 1, 2018 with the intention of having 100% of television programming described by the year 2020.

    An Increase Approaches

    With the next increase date approaching, the FCC is considering upping its audio description requirement by 75 percent. The FCC will hold an open meeting on July 13, where they will consider a Report and Order to increase the requirement from 50 to 87.5 hours per calendar quarter for broadcast and cable networks. If passed, this new measure will take effect on January 1, 2018.

    Putting Things in Perspective

    The FCC explains, “that the need for and benefits of the expanded hours requirement are greater than their technical and economic costs.” Said costs are estimated to total $315,000 a year. However, for the networks which would be impacted by this increase, this number is merely a fraction of their programming costs and of their net revenues.

    Although this increase would be the maximum increase allowed by the CVAA, it is still not enough. It’s estimated that there are between 7 and 21 million Americans – a substantial number – who could benefit from audio description. If this increase is implemented, this small step in making sure they have the same options as any other paying customers would still only guarantee less than one hour per day of described content, which compares to approximately 6,000 hours a day of programming accessible to seeing Americans. While this would be a great step, it is only a small stride toward building a more equal and accessible world.

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