FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler on NBC’s broadcast of The Wiz Live Thursday: “During this time of year, we’re reminded that everyone should have access to the joy of the season. That’s why it’s ‘genius’ that Comcast and NBC Universal will enable Americans with vision loss to enjoy a live broadcast show, The Wiz Live, through visual description technology. Now, Americans with visual impairments across the country will be able to fully experience a lion get his courage, a scarecrow get his brain, and a tinman find his heart through this technology. It’s a historic first for live TV entertainment.”
NBC parent Comcast says this will be the first live entertainment program in U.S. history to be accessible in this way to those who are blind. The vocal description is a narration track interspersed between existing pauses in dialogue that describes the show’s visual elements such as facial expressions, settings, costumes and stage direction.
An NPRM to implement additional mandates of the 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act is on the fast track. It would require that emergency information be provided aurally using the same secondary audio stream that is now used for various purposes like video descriptions and foreign language soundtracks.