The Media Bureau of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is seeking comments by September 4 on issues related to video description, which is the transmission of a secondary audio track describing the visible action in video programming for the benefit of individuals who are blind or visually impaired.  Under FCC rules, local TV station affiliates of ABC, CBS, Fox, and NBC located in the top 25 TV markets and the top five non-broadcast networks must provide 50 hours per quarter of video-described prime time or children’s programming.  Some cable companies and broadcasters also must “pass through” the video description that they receive from others in certain circumstances.

The Public Notice does not propose any rule changes to the existing FCC rules but seeks comment on a number of issues:

  • First, as it is required to do by Congress, the FCC is seeking comment on video description in television programming, including its availability, use, and benefits; technical and creative issues it raises; and its financial cost.
  • Second, also as required by statute, the FCC asks the same set of questions identified above regarding video description of video programming on the Internet.  The FCC will use the comments to develop a report to Congress regarding video description on television and the Internet to be submitted by July 1, 2014.
  • Finally, in addition to the statutorily mandated questions above, the FCC seeks comment on whether it should revisit its determination that pass-through of video description is not required when the technology used to provide video description (typically a secondary audio channel) is already in use for another purpose related to the programming that would conflict with providing video description (such as providing foreign-language audio).

Comments are due by September 4, 2013, and reply comments are due by October 2, 2013.