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FCC Proposes Expansion of Audio Description to Markets Beyond 100

Several years ago, Congress authorized the FCC to require certain television stations to provide “audio descriptions” for their content. Audio description makes video programming more accessible to individuals who are blind or visually impaired through “[t]he insertion of audio narrated descriptions of a television program’s key visual elements into natural pauses between the program’s dialogue.”

The FCC proceeded to roll out its audio description requirement over time, beginning with the network-affiliated station in the largest markets. Stations must provide 50 hours of audio description per calendar quarter, either during prime time or on children’s programming, and 37.5 additional hours of audio description per calendar quarter between 6 a.m. and 11:59 p.m. local time, on each programming stream on which they carry one of the top four commercial television broadcast networks.

The Commission adopted a phased expansion of the audio description rules. The audio description requirements were extended to:

  • DMAs 61 through 70 on January 1, 2021

  • DMAs 71 through 80 on January 1, 2022

  • DMAs 81 through 90 on January 1, 2023

  • DMAs 91 through 100 on January 1, 2024

This rollout schedule is already set. The FCC is now proposing to expand the audio description to markets beyond 100. It proposes to phase in the audio description requirements for an additional 10 DMAs each year until all 210 DMAs are covered.

For New York, this means that TV stations in the Syracuse market (85) are now subject to the audio description rule. TV stations in the Plattsburgh/Burlington market (94) must comply by January 1, 2024. The new proposal would extend the audio description requirement to Binghamton (161) on January 2031. The rules would become effective in Utica (172), Elmira/Corning (178), and Watertown (179) on January 1, 2032.

You can access the FCC Notice of Proposed Rulemaking here.

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