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ACA To FCC: Access To Video Descriptions On MVPD Systems Is Good And Getting Better

PITTSBURGH, June 28, 2016 -  The American Cable Association, in a filing with the Federal Communications Commission yesterday, said the industry has made significant strides in making video description services available to the blind and visually impaired and these benefits are expected to increase in the future.  Although ACA emphasized certain new regulations on MVPD are not needed, if the FCC were to adopt some rules on smaller MVPDs, it should align any compliance deadlines for these MVPDs with the existing deadlines for small MVPDs to offer audibly accessible navigation devices.

"Given the success of the existing video description program under the existing regulatory regime, and the continuing voluntary efforts on the part of industry to improve service and make video description more widely available, the FCC need not adopt some of its proposed rules, particularly those applicable to smaller MVPDs.  If the FCC does adopt any new requirements, aligning the compliance deadlines with the deadline for small operators to comply with the requirement to provide audibly accessible video navigation devices will help minimize confusion and administrative costs," ACA President and CEO Matthew M. Polka said.

ACA's comments came in response to an FCC Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) seeking input on a number of proposals designed to "expand the availability of, and support consumer access to, video described programming."  ACA limited its discussion to three main topics:  industry efforts to give MVPD customer greater access to more than two audio streams per channel; the availability of information about upcoming programming with video description; and the offering of customer service with respect to video described programming.

Regarding the inclusion of information about the availability of video descriptions with particular programming on programming guides, ACA pointed out that the programmers alone determine which programming will contain video description, and the decision to include such information in programming guides is made by the programmers and the program guide services, rather than the MVPDs.  A requirement that distributors consistently provide notice when a program is going to be described would unfairly place a significant burden on the party with the least knowledge of and control over that information, ACA said.

"Such a requirement would force MVPDs to use commercial contracts to require programmers to give such information to MVPD program guide services, and to require MVPD program guide services to include this information in the service they provide to MVPDs.  Small MVPDs simply do not have the leverage necessary to influence the decisions of programmers or program guide services to make them include information about the availability of video described programming in guides," Polka said.

Although ACA proposed that the FCC not apply certain new rules on MVPDs, ACA also stated that the deadline for any new rules applicable to smaller MVPDs should go into effect at the same time that these operators must comply with the FCC's rules on audio accessible video programming guides and menus.  Under this rule, MVPDs with 400,000 or fewer subscribers (as of year-end 2012), and MVPD systems with 20,000 or fewer subscribers that are not affiliated with an operator serving more than 10 percent of all MVPD subscribers (as of year-end 2012) must come into compliance starting December 20, 2018.

The video description rules currently require broadcast stations and MVPD systems that serve 50,000 or more subscribers to provide video description for a portion of the video programming that they offer to consumers.  All MPVD systems are required to pass through covered video described programming on the broadcast stations and non-broadcast programming they provide, provided they have the technical capability and that technology is not being used for another purpose related to the programming, such as foreign language audio.

About the American Cable Association: Based in Pittsburgh, the American Cable Association is a trade organization representing nearly 750 smaller and medium-sized, independent cable companies who provide broadband services for nearly 7 million cable subscribers primarily located in rural and smaller suburban markets across America.  Through active participation in the regulatory and legislative process in Washington, D.C., ACA's members work together to advance the interests of their customers and ensure the future competitiveness and viability of their business.  For more information, visit http://www.americancable.org/

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