VITAC was proud to sponsor and provide captions for this month’s American Council of the Blind’s 2023 Audio Description Awards Gala.
Hosted by actor, writer, and director Marilee Talkington and disability rights advocate Conchita Hernandez Legorreta, the awards gala recognized outstanding achievement in audio description in entertainment and educational media. The event featured celebrity guests, film clips, and more than a dozen awards celebrating accessible films, TV series, books, and video games.
The gala – which was broadcast on multiple platforms, including NBC Universal Peacock, ACB Media 1, ACB’s YouTube channel, and ADAwardsGala.org – featured captioning, audio description, and a simultaneous Spanish translation.
English audio description was provided by Audio Description Associates and voiced by Ren Leach while Spanish audio description and Spanish dubbing was created by Dicapta with narration by Oscar Javier Cuesta.
VITAC has provided captions for the event since its inception in 2021.
Awards were presented to:
- Jim Stovall – AD Visionary
- Netflix – AD Game Changer: Innovation
- Naughty Dog/Sony – AD Game Changer: Gaming
- Imagination Storybooks – AD Game Changer: Education
- Hallmark Media – AD Game Changer: Popular Entertainment
- Paramount – AD Game Changer: 100% Access
- Warner Bros. Discovery – Outstanding Achievement: Live Events
- Semillitas – Outstanding Achievement: Spanish Media (USA)
- BBC iPlayer – Outstanding Achievement: International Media
- “Wednesday” (Neflix/IDC) – People’s Choice Award (Series)
- “Everything Everywhere All at Once” (A24/Deluxe U.S.) – People’s Choice Award (Film)
Audio Description’s Growing Popularity
Audio description makes video programming more accessible to individuals who are blind or with low vision through the insertion of audio narrated descriptions of a 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.
Federal Communications Commission (FCC) rules require local TV affiliates of ABC, CBS, Fox, and NBC that are located in the top 90 TV markets to provide 87.5 hours per calendar quarter (about 7 hours per week) of audio-described programming, of which 50 hours must be prime time and/or children’s programming and 37.5 hours be any type of programming shown between 6 AM 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.
Like captions, which now are used by people who are hearing and deaf alike, the popularity of audio description is growing and expanding beyond its original audience and caters to a world of multi-tasking TV watchers who want to understand action on TV without focusing solely on the video.
The FCC has taken notice of this demand for more described content and, earlier this year, announced its plan to expand audio description regulations to all broadcast market areas.
The new rules would expand the commission’s audio description requirements to an additional 10 Designated Market Areas (DMAs) per year until all remaining DMAs are covered. A Designated Market Area 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.
The plan would see audio description requirements phased-in with DMAs 91 through 100 in January 2024, DMAs 101 through 110 in January 2025, and extending to 10 additional DMAs per year until the phase-in concludes with DMAs 201 through 210 on January 1, 2035.