Indoors. A video camera focuses on a woman seated in front of a bookcaseEvery three years, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) updates the list of the five subscription television networks with the highest audience that are required to include audio description in part of their programming. This update is made to account for changes in television ratings as measured by Nielsen.

According to data provided by Nielsen, for the period 2019-2020, the top 10 subscription television networks were Fox News, MSNBC, CNN, ESPN, TLC, HGTV, Hallmark, History, TBS, and Discovery.

Any of the five top-rated networks can request to be excluded from the audio description requirements if they do not broadcast at least 50 quarterly hours of non-live or near-live programming or are otherwise exempt. In fact, in March 2018, ESPN, MSNBC and Fox News, which were among the five highest-rated networks by subscription between 2016 and 2017, asked to be exempted from the video description rules. The FCC granted them the exemption because the networks aired on average less than 50 hours per quarter of primetime programming that was not live or near-live.

Currently, the channels that by law must provide 87.5 quarterly hours of audio description are USA, HGTV, TBS, Discovery and History.

In any case, as of July 1, 2021, there will be changes to the list of subscription television networks that must meet the audio description requirements.



- “Media Bureau Announces National Nonbroadcast Network Rankings for Purposes of July 1, 2021 Update to Audio Description Requirements” (DA-20-1301). Federal Communications Commission,  Nov 2, 2020,

- “FCC Updates List of Included Nonbroadcast Networks Under Video Description Rules” (as of 7/1/18:  Discovery, HGTV, History, TBS, and USA) (DA 18-508). Federal Communications Commission, May 17, 2018,

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