Skip Navigation

Federal Communications Commission

English Display Options

Video Description

1 Background
2 Availability of Video Description
3 How to Access Video Description
4 Learn More
5 Top 25 TV Markets
6 Complaints
7 For More Information
8 Links to Network Websites
      8.1 Video Described programs on various networks
      8.2 Broadcast Networks
      8.3 Non-Broadcast Networks
9 Useful links
      9.1 FCC Video Description Consumer Guide
10 References
11 Pre-CVAA Historical Information


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. According to the Vital and Health Statistics report Series 10, Number 252, titled: Summary Health Statistics for U.S. Adults: National Interview Survey, 2010, the number of persons 18 years and over with vision trouble is: 21,516,000 (approximately: 21.5 million). [1] 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 as of 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 5 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.

Learn More

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.

Top 25 TV Markets

To view the top 25 markets, click here.


To learn more about how to file a complaint, click here.

Links to Network Websites

The top four commercial broadcast networks (ABC, CBS, Fox, and NBC) alongside the top five non-broadcast networks (USA, Disney Channel, TNT, Nickelodeon, and TBS) will broadcast 50 hours of Video Description content from July 1, 2012.

Video Described programs on various networks

Currently, the following list of programs are anticipated to be aired with Video Description on July 1,2012. [2]

  • ABC: Last Man Standing, The Middle, Suburgatory, Modern Family, Happy Endings and Don't Trust the B---- in Apt. 23. ABC will most likely add new sitcom The Neighbors and new drama Nashville in the fall.
  • CBS: CSI, Criminal Minds, NCIS, NCIS: Los Angeles, plus movies and miniseries
  • Fox: The Simpsons
  • NBC: The Betty White reality show Off Their Rockers, drama Grimm and the summer series Saving Hope. Described sitcoms include The Office, Up All Night and Parks and Recreation
  • Disney: Jessie, A.N.T. Farm and the animated Phineas and Ferb
  • Nickelodeon: Dora the Explorer and preschool educational show Team Umizoomi
  • TNT and TBS: The Closer,House of Payne and For Better or Worse.
  • USA: NCIS, Law & Order: SVU, Royal Pains and Suits.

More information about programs with video description can be found on the networks websites provided below:

Broadcast Networks

Non-Broadcast Networks

Subscription TV Providers

Audio Telephone Lines

  • NBC: 818-777-7030
  • USA: 212-664-7010

For More Information

For more information about FCC programs to promote access to telecommunications services for people with disabilities, visit the FCC's Disability Rights Office website.

For information about other telecommunications issues, visit the FCC's Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau website, or contact the FCC's Consumer Center using the information provided for filing a complaint.

This document is for consumer education purposes only and is not intended to affect any proceedings or cases involving this subject matter or related issues.

Useful links

The following webpages also contain useful information about Video Description:

FCC Video Description Consumer Guide


Updated: November 6, 2014

You are leaving the FCC website

You are about to leave the FCC website and visit a third-party, non-governmental website that the FCC does not maintain or control. The FCC does not endorse any product or service, and is not responsible for, nor can it guarantee the validity or timeliness of the content on the page you are about to visit. Additionally, the privacy policies of this third-party page may differ from those of the FCC.