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FCC announces Audio Description DMA Expansion


This Thursday, March 16, The Federal Communications Commission is meeting to propose, among other topics, an Audio Description DMA Expansion. If this is approved, it means that audio description requirements will expand to additional market areas. This will result in a greater number of individuals who are blind or visually impaired can be connected, informed, and entertained by television programming.

The DMAs (or Designated Market areas) are U.S. geographic areas that Nielsen uses to measure local television viewing. In particular, for audio description, the Federal Communications Commission uses Nielsen's DMAs to determine which areas are mandatory to provide audio description. 

a woman watches TV in her living room

Currently, audio description requirements are being steadily met in market-designated areas 1-100, in a phased schedule, that will be completed in January 2024. This 2023, the Commission will meet in order to determine whether to continue expanding the audio description requirements to an additional 10 DMAs per year. Through the Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (FNPRM), the Commission would seek comment on its proposal to expand the audio description requirements using a phased schedule until the audio description rules cover all 210 DMAs.

According to the FCC, this is what the FNPRM would do:

  • Propose to expand support for individuals who are blind or visually impaired and ensure that they have nationwide access to video programming by expanding the audio description requirements to all remaining market areas.
  • Invite comments on whether the costs of implementing the audio description regulations in DMAs 101 through 210 are reasonable.
  • Consistent with the Twenty-First Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act of 2010 (CVAA), propose to phase in the audio description requirements for an additional 10 DMAs each year until all DMAs are covered, beginning with DMAs 101 through 110 on January 1, 2025, and concluding with DMAs 201 through 210 on January 1, 2035.
  • Propose that section 79.3(d) of the Commission’s rules will govern any petitions for exemption due to economic burden, and that section 1.3 of the Commission’s rules will govern waivers of the Commission’s rules generally.

The Open Meeting is scheduled to commence at 10:30 a.m. ET in the Commission Meeting Room of the Federal Communications Commission, 45 L Street, N.E., Washington, D.C. While the Open Meeting is open to the public, the FCC headquarters building is not open access. Open meetings are streamed live at www.fcc.gov/live.

We invite everyone to join this meeting to further support accessible programming for people with sensory disabilities.