FCC Audio Description Rules Continue to Expand in 2023

By: VITAC
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The next phase of the Federal Communication Commission’s (FCC) expanded audio description rules took effect this month as 10 more designated market areas are now required to provide audio description.

The FCC’s audio description rules currently require certain broadcast stations in the top 80 designated market areas (DMAs) to provide described programming. A DMA is a region of the United States that is used to define television and radio markets. There are 210 DMAs in the U.S., which typically are based on metropolitan areas.

The FCC OK’d a plan in 2020 to expand audio description requirements to 40 additional DMAs over a four-year span. As a result, DMAs 61-70 were introduced in January 2021 and DMAs 71-80 in January 2022.  

The newest 10 television markets subject to expansion of the audio description rules beginning Jan. 1, 2023, are: Madison, WI; Waco-Temple-Bryan, TX; Harlingen-Weslaco-Brownsville-McAllen, TX; Paducah, KY-Cape Girardeau, MO-Harrisburg, IL; Colorado Springs-Pueblo, CO; Shreveport, LA; Syracuse, NY; Champaign and Springfield-Decatur, IL; Savannah, GA; and Cedar Rapids-Waterloo-Iowa City and Dubuque, IA.

DMAs 91-100 will be included in January 2024.

What is Audio Description?

Audio description makes video programming more accessible to individuals who are blind or visually impaired through the insertion of audio narrated descriptions of a television program’s key visual elements into natural pauses between the program’s dialogue.

On television networks, audio description is accessed by navigating to the Secondary Audio Program (SAP) channel, usually in the accessibility settings of a set-top box. On streaming platforms, audio description can be chosen as a separate audio language.

The FCC requires certain television broadcast stations and multichannel video programming distributors to provide audio description for a portion of the video programming they televise. The rules require commercial television broadcast stations that are affiliated with one of the top four commercial television broadcast networks (ABC, CBS, Fox, and NBC) and currently located in the top 80 television markets to provide 50 hours of audio-described programming per calendar quarter during prime time or on children’s programming as well as an additional 37.5 hours of described programming per calendar quarter at any time between 6 a.m. and midnight.

The FCC also requires the same of the top five cable networks (currently TLC, HGTV, Hallmark, History, and TBS) that broadcast a significant amount of prerecorded content.

Work with a Leader

VITAC has more than three decades worth of experience in providing audio description and accessible communications. We partner with a wide variety of media and entertainment clients and work closely with them to help achieve their accessibility goals.

Our clients rely on us to:

  • Meet the standards set by the Audio Description Coalition as well as the standards for educational description set by the American Foundation for the Blind/Described and Captioned Media Program.
  • Employ voice talent by program content and uniform, top-quality narration using the same voice for consistency throughout a series.
  • Match voices to various programming genres.
  • Work with the best, experienced, professional audio engineers.
  • Meet the fastest turnaround schedules in the industry.
  • Deliver and receive content in virtually any audio/video format.

Interested in learning more? Connect with one of our accessibility experts today.