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ACA’s Polka Applauds FCC For Adopting Balanced Video Description Order

Implementing a new law passed by Congress, the Federal Communications Commission in late August adopted video description rules under the Twenty-First Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act, which requires audio narration about visual programming elements in order to make television programming more accessible by blind or visually handicapped individuals. The FCC's Report and Order was released on Aug. 25 and sets a July 1, 2012 deadline for compliance.

"ACA commends the FCC on adoption of the Video Description Order in a manner respectful of the concerns expressed by the independent cable community.  Especially in a tough economic environment, small businesses regard the imposition of new technical regulations as a financial and competitive burden," ACA President and CEO Matthew M. Polka said.

The new rules were an outgrowth of similar rules adopted by the FCC in 2000. That effort was sidetracked by a court ruling that held the FCC lacked authority to adopt video description rules.

"ACA applauds the FCC for earnestly listening to the concerns of smaller cable operators and addressing them in an Order that will surely improve the lives of individuals in the blind and visually impaired community by making television more accessible. The approach taken by the FCC in this Order should serve as a model for how to adopt good public policy in the future without imposing too big a burden on smaller operators," Polka added.

Beginning on July 1, 2012, all MVPDs and broadcasters must pass through all video descriptions provided from their originating program source.  However, the pass through requirement only applies if the MVPD or broadcaster has the technical capability to pass through the video description and that technical capacity is not being used for another purpose.

The FCC also will require large-market television affiliates of the four major networks, as well as multichannel video programming distributors (MVPDs) with more than 50,000 subscribers, to provide video description information themselves. Broadcasters are mandated to provide 50 hours of video description for prime-time or children's programs per calendar quarter, and MVPDs must provide the same number of hours on each of the five most popular non-broadcast networks.

For more information on the new video description rules, see the ACA's Member Advisory.

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