In response to Congress' request that we report on appropriate methods and
schedules for phasing video descriptions into the marketplace,(62) any requirements for video
description should begin with only the largest broadcast stations and programming networks that
are better able to bear the costs involved. The appropriate timeframe for any requirements might
take into account DTV penetration and availability. For example, a minimal amount of video
description could be required to be provided by the larger broadcast stations in the larger
markets, and by the larger video programming networks. In any event, any requirement should
have an exemption for smaller broadcasters, MVPDs, and programming networks. With respect
to Congress' request for a definition of programming for which video descriptions would apply,(63)
we believe that priority should be given to programming where there is significant action not
apparent to persons with visual disabilities. We note that National Coalition recommends
beginning with prime time television and also emphasizes video description for children's
educational programming.(64) In Who's Watching, survey results showed that dramas or mysteries,
nature or science, news and information, comedies, and music programs or videos topped the
lists of television programs that respondents would like to have described.(65) Whether funded
through public sources or through a more direct regulatory requirement, a period of trial and
experimentation would be beneficial so that more specific information would be available as to
the types of programming that would most benefit from description, the costs of providing video
descriptions, and other matters.
1. 47 U.S.C. § 613(f). Specifically, Section 713(f) of the Communications Act states that the Commission must
"commence an inquiry to examine the use of video descriptions on video programming in order to ensure the
accessibility of video programming to persons with visual impairments, and report to Congress on its findings. The
Commission's report shall assess appropriate methods and schedules for phasing video descriptions into the
marketplace, technical and quality standards for video descriptions, a definition of programming for which video
descriptions would apply, and other technical and legal issues that the Commission deems appropriate."
2. Closed Captioning and Video Description of Video Programming, Implementation of Section 305 of the
Telecommunications Act of 1996, Video Programming Accessibility, MM Docket No. 95-176, Report ("Video
Accessibility Report"), 11 FCC Rcd 19214, 19270-19271 ¶¶ 138-142 (1996).
3. Notice, 12 FCC Rcd at 7844-7845, ¶¶ 21-23.
4. 47 U.S.C. § 613(g) (video description means the insertion of audio narrated descriptions of a television
program's key visual elements into natural pauses between the program's dialogue).
5. Providing video description through the SAP channel is also referred to as "closed description." Jaclyn Packer
and Corinne Kirchner, Who's Watching: A Profile of the Blind and Visually Impaired Audience for Television and
Video ("Who's Watching"), American Foundation for the Blind, 1997, at vii. This study analyzes the needs and
television viewing habits of persons with visual disabilities as well as their perceptions of television and video
description. Who's Watching at v-vii.
6. Video Accessibility Report, 11 FCC Rcd at 19253-19254 ¶ 94.
7. ACB Comments Cover Letter.
8. Kaleidoscope Comments at 6; see also National Coalition Comments at 15. Kaleidoscope estimates that its
current programming, interstitials and commercials are 88% fully accessible and 12% partially accessible.
Kaleidoscope Comments at 5. RP urges that future hardware be designed with persons with visual disabilities in
mind, suggesting that all menus should "talk" and all access buttons for other audio channels be "brailled" or
otherwise touch identifiable. RP Reply Comments at 3.
9. WGBH Comments at 2; WGBH Reply Comments at 1.
10. WGBH Reply Comments at 1.
11. WGBH Comments at 2.
12. RP Comments at 7-8.
13. Id. at 8; see also NCTA Comments at 48 (cable operators must incur costs to add SAP capability).
14. NCTA Comments at 48.
16. WGBH Comments at 2.
17. NCTA Comments at 48.
18. Video Accessibility Report, 11 FCC Rcd at 19254 ¶ 96, citing National Center for Health Statistics, Current
Estimates from the National Health Interview Survey, 1994, Series 10, No. 193, at 93, Table 62. Other estimates
range between eight and 12 million persons. Id.
19. Who's Watching at 23.
20. ACB Comments at 3-4.
21. ACB Comments at 4 (persons with learning or cognitive disabilities may benefit from video description); RP
Reply Comments at 2 (total number of potential beneficiaries approaches 30 million); Metropolitan Washington Ear
Reply Comments at 4 (number of people with visual disabilities is closer to 12 million; millions more will benefit
from video description, including relatives of the visually disabled, people learning English as a second language,
and people with learning disabilities).
22. MPAA Comments at 7.
23. Metropolitan Washington Ear Reply Comments at 6; see also WGBH Reply Comments at 5. AFB also
disputes the claim that video description is of limited utility, citing its own study of attitudes towards video
description. See AFB Reply Comments at 2-3, citing Who's Watching at 23.
24. RP Comments at 2.
25. Video Accessibility Report, 11 FCC Rcd at 19258-19259 ¶¶ 106-109.
26. NCTA Comments at 47.
27. MPAA Comments at 3.
28. WGBH Comments at 2. See also RP Comments at 22 (cost of video description ranges from $3,000 to $5,000
29. WGBH Comments at 3. WGBH maintains that this small increase should be borne by broadcasters in return
for their use of the public airways. Id.
30. Kaleidoscope Comments at 6. NTN also maintains that estimates of the cost of video description have been
dramatically overestimated. NTN Reply Comments at 1-2.
31. Kaleidoscope Comments at 5-6.
32. NTN Reply Comments at 1-2. NTN notes that it has achieved this rate as a profitable, commercial tax-paying
33. Kaleidoscope Comments at 6; NTN Comments Attachment. Kaleidoscope also notes that "open" video
description is significantly less complex and allows for additional savings in distribution.
34. Metropolitan Washington Ear Reply Comments at 4.
35. WGBH Reply Comments at 3.
37. Id. at 4.
38. RP Reply Comments at 2.
39. Video Accessibility Report, 11 FCC Rcd at 19270 ¶ 139.
40. See, e.g., AFB Reply Comments at 3; Metropolitan Washington Ear Reply Comments at 4-5; HBO Reply
Comments at 2.
41. See, e.g., MPAA Comments at 3; HBO Reply Comments at 2.
42. Video Accessibility Report at 19270 ¶ 140. We also reported that the primary source of funding for video
description has been grants administered by PBS, National Endowment for the Arts, National Science Foundation
and especially the Department of Education ("DOE") At the time of the Video Accessibility Report, DOE allocated
$1.5 million for video description, or about $0.19 per American with visual disability. Id. at 19259 ¶ 110.
43. MPAA Comments at 6. See also HBO Reply Comments at 7.
44. See, e.g., WGBH Comments at 3.
45. National Coalition Comments at 10-11.
46. Id. at 11.
48. Id. at 10-11. The children's educational programming requirements only apply to broadcast licensees. 47
C.F.R. § 73.661.
49. Id. at 11.
50. Id. at 12.
52. Video Accessibility Report, 11 FCC Rcd at 19270-71 ¶ 141.
53. NCTA Comments at 48; Lifetime Reply Comments at 7; MPAA Comments at 6-7. See also HBO Reply
Comments at 6 (copyright liability posed by video description creates an additional expense that is difficult to
predict and is largely ignored by advocates of video description).
54. WGBH Comments at 3; WGBH Reply Comments at 4-5. See also National Coalition Comments at 13; AFB
Comments at 5 (the desire to obtain carriage will resolve copyright disputes if the Commission were to mandate
55. Kaleidoscope Comments at 9.
57. See, e.g., MPAA Comments at 2; NCTA Comments at 47; WGBH Comments at 1.
58. Fourth Report and Order, 11 FCC Rcd at 17795 ¶ 58.
59. Id. The audio system of the DTV standard allows data to be specifically identified as an associated audio
service for persons with visual disabilities. In addition, the DTV standard allows a separate complete audio service
that includes video description. Id.
60. WGBH Comments at 2.
62. 47 U.S.C. § 613(f).
64. We note that some programming services, most notably smaller cable programming networks, have very
limited viewership, even during prime time. We also note that the children's programming requirements only apply
to broadcast licensees.
65. Who's Watching at 26.