An exciting update on video description for prime-time TV

by Melanie Brunson

July of 2012 will mark a milestone for the blind community in this country.  It is not only conference and convention month, but this year, it will also bring an increase in the number of programs on prime-time television that include video description.  This is the first step in the implementation of the provisions of the Communications and Video Accessibility Act that ACB was instrumental in getting enacted into law.  The information that follows is taken from a public service announcement that was developed for ACB Radio.  It concisely outlines what we can expect as television broadcasters roll out their described programming.  Please read on for the details and as the text indicates, feel free to contact us if you have concerns or questions.

On July 1, 2012, full-power affiliates of the top 4 commercial television broadcast networks (ABC, CBS, Fox, and NBC) located in the top 25 television markets must provide 4 hours per week of video-described prime-time and/or children's programming.  On July 1, 2015, such affiliates serving the top 60 markets will provide video description with the same stipulation. 

On July 1, 2012, cable and satellite providers with 50,000 or more subscribers must provide 4 hours per week of video-described prime time and/or children's programming on each of the top 5 national non-broadcast networks.

Currently, the top 5 non-broadcast networks are USA, Disney Channel, TNT, Nickelodeon, and TBS. 

By July 1, 2013, the Commission must initiate an inquiry on video description and report to Congress one year after initiating that inquiry.

Not before 2 years after completing this report, the Commission may increase the requirement by up to 75 percent from 4 to 7 hours per week for televised video programming.

The Commission does not require, but expects that programmers, stations, and systems will provide information to viewers about the availability of video description on certain programs in an accessible manner, including on their websites and with companies that publish television listings information.

Viewers may file complaints with the Commission about a failure to comply with the video description rules by any reasonable means, such as by letter, fax, phone, e-mail, or through the Commission's web portal (

ACB has been very involved in working to restore and increase described TV broadcasts.  For more information, contact the ACB national office at 1-800-424-8666.