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Video Description: Implementation of the Twenty-First Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act of 2010


In compliance with the recently enacted Twenty-First Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act of 2010 (the “Communications and Video Accessibility Act” or “CVAA”),this Notice of Proposed Rulemaking proposes and seeks comment on reinstatement of the video description rules adopted by the Commission in 2000. “Video description,” which is the insertion of audio narrated descriptions of a television program's key visual elements into natural pauses in the program's dialogue, makes video programming more accessible to individuals who are blind or visually impaired. The United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit vacated the Commission’s video description rules due to insufficient authority soon after their initial adoption. The CVAA now directs the Commission to reinstate those rules with certain modifications. We anticipate that the revised and reinstated rules will afford better access to television programs for individuals who are blind or visually impaired.

The Commission’s rules required large-market broadcast affiliates of the top four national networks and multichannel video programming distributors (“MVPDs”) with more than 50,000 subscribers to provide video description. Covered broadcasters were required to provide 50 hours of video-described prime time or children’s programming, per quarter, and covered MVPDs were required to provide the same number of hours on each of the five most popular nonbroadcast networks. The rules also required that all network-affiliated broadcasters (commercial or non-commercial) and all MVPDs pass through any video description provided with programming they carried, to the extent that they are technically capable of doing so. As required under the CVAA, we propose to reinstate these rules, with the modifications required by the law, on October 8, 2011, and to require broadcast stations and MVPDs subject to our rules to begin providing the requisite number of hours of programming with video description beginning in the first quarter of 2012.

In the Notice, we seek comment on the modifications to the rules required by the CVAA. Notably, these modifications include the exemption of “live or near-live” programming from the rules. We seek comment on the definition of “near-live,” and propose that programs produced within 24 hours of their first airing be considered “near-live” under the rules. We also seek information about the number of hours of non-exempt programming provided by the top nonbroadcast programming networks to enable us to identify which networks will be subject to our rules.

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