Disability History and Awareness:
New TV Video Description Rules Take Effect July 1
New video description rules that take effect July 1, 2012, will make television programming more accessible to Texans who are blind or have vision impairments. Video description is a voice-narrated description of what is happening during a television program. These descriptions are inserted into natural pauses in the program's dialogue.
The rules require local TV station affiliates of ABC, CBS, Fox, and NBC located in the top 25 TV markets, including Houston and Dallas-Fort Worth, to provide at least a few hours of video described programs each week. The top five non-broadcast networks and Subscription TV systems with 50,000 or more subscribers also must provide some video described programs. The affected systems include those offered over cable, satellite, or the telephone network.
Smaller local TV stations, many Public Broadcasting System stations, and smaller subscription TV systems also may provide video description. Check with your local stations for details.
Following are more details about the new rules from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC):
Video description is audio-narrated descriptions of a television program’s key visual elements. These descriptions are inserted into natural pauses in the program’s dialogue. Video description makes TV programming more accessible to individuals who are blind or visually impaired. On August 25, 2011, the FCC adopted rules to implement the video description provisions of the Twenty-First Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act of 2010 (CVAA). These rules are effective July 1, 2012.
Availability of Video Description
FCC rules require local TV station affiliates of ABC, CBS, Fox, and NBC located in the top 25 TV markets to provide 50 hours per calendar quarter (about 4 hours per week) of video-described prime time and/or children’s programming.
- Local TV stations in markets smaller than the top 25 also may provide video description. Check with your local TV stations.
- Many Public Broadcasting System (PBS) stations also provide video description on a number of programs. Check with your local PBS station.
- The requirement to provide video description is extended to local TV station affiliates of ABC, CBS, Fox, and NBC located in the top 60 television markets beginning July 1, 2015.
The top five non-broadcast networks - Disney Channel, Nickelodeon, TBS, TNT, and USA - must provide 50 hours per calendar quarter (about 4 hours per week) of video-described prime time and/or children’s programming.
- Subscription TV systems (offered over cable, satellite or the telephone network) with 50,000 or more subscribers must carry video description.
- Subscription TV systems with fewer than 50,000 subscribers also may provide video description. Check with your subscription TV provider.
How to Access Video Description
Video description is provided through the TV or set top box “secondary audio” feature, which some TV controls identify as “SAP” or “secondary audio program.” The secondary audio may also be identified as a language feature, such as “Spanish” or “SPA,” because it is also used to provide Spanish or other language translations of English language TV programs. Depending upon the program being viewed, when listening to the secondary audio, you may hear the primary audio with video description, Spanish or other language translation, a duplicate of the primary audio, or silence.
Your TV user manual may provide information about activating the secondary audio feature, or you may contact the customer service department where you bought the TV or the customer service department of the TV manufacturer for assistance. If you have a set top box for subscription TV service, you may contact your subscription TV provider for assistance in activating the secondary audio.
Networks, broadcasters, and subscription TV systems may provide information about the availability of programs with video description through their websites and in program guides. Some program guides may use the symbol (D) to indicate that the program is video described.
In the future, the FCC will provide links to these websites where they are available, and other information on video description on the FCC’s web page at www.fcc.gov/encyclopedia/video-description.