FCC Seeks to Expand Audio Description to all Broadcast Markets

Apr 3 2023 VITAC
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The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has proposed a plan that would expand audio description regulations to all broadcast market areas where the requirement does not already apply.

Audio description inserts narrated descriptions of a television program’s key visual elements during natural pauses in the program’s dialogue. According to the FCC, the proposal would ensure that video programming is more accessible to individuals who are blind or with low vision, helping them be more connected, informed, and entertained by television programming.

The FCC’s audio description rules originally applied to the top 60 designated market areas (DMAs). A DMA is a region of the United States that is used to define television and radio markets. There are 210 DMAs covering the U.S. and usually are defined based on metropolitan areas, with suburbs often being combined within.

In 2020, the FCC adopted a rule requiring the phased expansion of audio description regulations to DMAs 61 through 100. The phased expansion added 10 new areas each year and will conclude with DMAs 91 through 100 next January.

The commission now is seeking public comment on whether it should continue this expansion until all 210 DMAs are covered. It proposes that the phase-in should continue with DMAs 101 through 110 on January 1, 2025, and extend to an additional 10 DMAs each year, finishing with DMAs 201 through 210 on January 1, 2035.

“We’ve seen – and reported to Congress on – audio description’s benefits in the largest markets,” said FCC Commissioner Geoffrey Starks. “We propose to bring those benefits to all 210 DMAs – the entire country – on a phased approach. Or, to put it another way, we propose to make the service of audio description universal.”

Comments must be submitted no later than Friday, April 28. Reply Comments must be submitted no later than Monday, May 15.

Interested parties may file comments by accessing the FCC’s Electronic Comment Filing System at https://www.fcc.gov/ecfs/filings. All filings must reference MB Docket No. 11-43. People with disabilities who need assistance to file comments online may request assistance by email to FCC504@fcc.gov.