2021 Started with Audio Description Available in More Areas of the Country

Last October, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) expanded the number of areas covered by the audio description requirements to 10 additional areas per year until 2024. Until 2020, the FCC regulation covered only the top 60 designated market areas (DMAs) by Nielsen. These areas are used to prioritize media markets by the size of their radio and television audiences. This means that users who live in areas with less population density will be benefiting from access to this service on television.

In 2023, the FCC will review again whether it continues to expand the audio description requirements to an additional 10 markets per year. In total, there are 210 designated market areas that cover the entire continental United States, plus Hawaii and parts of Alaska. Any future expansion will take into account whether the costs associated with this expansion are reasonable for local television stations.

The decision made last October was based on the fact that the costs of adding audio description to television programming have been stable since 2017, indicating that the costs are at a level that the Commission previously considered "minimal." Covered broadcasters must already have the necessary equipment and infrastructure to deliver a secondary audio stream for emergency reporting requirements, regardless of their technical capacity or market size. As acknowledged by the National Broadcasters Association (NAB), stations that meet the requirement to deliver emergency audible information via secondary audio transmission "should be able to provide audio description without significant additional cost".

So if you live in Honolulu or any of the other areas covered by this change, you should be able to enjoy at least 87.5 hours of audio description per quarter on ABC, CBS, Fox, or NBC. These are still very few hours, but thanks to the increase in television viewing options and the growing awareness of media producers, audio description is gaining more and more prominence.