Federal Communications Commission Proposal on Expanding Audio Description Requirements

The current regulation requires that commercial television broadcast stations affiliated with ABC, CBS, Fox, or NBC in the top 60 designated market areas (DMAs) provide audio described programming. The number of hours required are: 50 per quarter during prime time or children programming, and 37.5 hours more that can be offered at any time between 6 a.m. and midnight.

A DMA or market is a region where the population can receive the same (or similar) television and radio station offerings. The DMAs are ranked by Nielsen based on the population of each surveyed market region and are usually identified by its largest city. The 2020 Nielsen DMA 61 to 70 are: Knoxville, Little Rock-Pine Bluff, Dayton, Lexington, Tucson (Sierra Vista), Honolulu, Green Bay-Appleton, Des Moines-Ames, Roanoke-Lynchburg, and Spokane. These areas will probably be the first ones to be impacted by the expansion of the regulation. Currently, the Commission has been using the 2015 Nielsen DMA ranking to determine the top 60 DMAs, but the proposal is to use the 2020 ranking.

The Commission invites comments on its proposal, including comments on whether the costs of the expansion of audio description requirements would be reasonable and if it should consider the coronavirus pandemic in evaluating them.

The proposed expansion would help ensure that a greater number of individuals who are blind or visually impaired can be connected, informed, and entertained by television programming.

The Commission’s open meeting will be on April 23 at 10:30 a.m. ET and can be accessed at www.fcc.gov/live.

* Audio description is a narration added to a television program, movie, or other audiovisual material and includes details that can not be inferred just by listening to the material. It allows people who are blind or visually impaired to have the same access to visual material as people without visual impairment do.



- “Video Description: Implementation of the Twenty-First Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act of 2010. Notice of Proposed Rulemaking – MB Docket No. 11-43.” Federal Communications Commission, April 2, 2020, https://docs.fcc.gov/public/attachments/DOC-363489A1.pdf

- “Nielsen DMA Rankings 2020.” Media Tracks Communications, https://mediatracks.com/resources/nielsen-dma-rankings-2020/