By an FCC vote today, leading networks will have to increase the hours of programming with video descriptions for the blind from 50 to 87.5 per quarter starting next July.
By a 3-0 vote, the FCC today expanded by 75% the hours of video descriptions that leading networks and pay TV providers must offer for the blind and visually impaired.
The extra hours take effect in July 2018.
Video description, also called audio description, allows the seven million Americans who have trouble seeing a program to listen to descriptions of settings and action in between the dialog. The descriptions are provided through an alternative audio channel.
“The new rules adopted today will ensure that more video described programming is available to those who rely on it, and also provide broadcast and non-broadcast television networks more flexibility in complying with the rules,” the FCC said.
The rules apply only to the top networks, which may change over time. Right now, they are ABC, CBS, Fox, NBC, Disney Channel, History, TBS, TNT, and USA.
Today, each network must offer 50 hours of descriptions per quarter during primetime or children’s programming.
Starting a year from now, the obligation will increase to 87.5 hours per quarter, which averages out to about one hour a day. However, the additional hours can be offered in any programming between 6 a.m. and midnight.
With the 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act of 2010, Congress recognized the importance of ensuring that Americans with disabilities have access to functionally-equivalent entertainment and communications options.
The new rules adopted by the Commission today take another important step in implementing this law and furthering its accessibility goals, the FCC said.