Last April, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) published a WarnerMedia petition for a limited waiver of audio description requirements on behalf of its network TBS.

Currently, the FCC requires the networks covered by the audio description mandate to offer 87.5 video described hours per quarter. TBS is included in the non-broadcast networks covered by the mandate during the current and the upcoming period starting on July 1, 2021.

Since repeats of a program can only be counted once on a given channel (commonly referred to as the “repeat rule”), TBS claims that, it has been a challenge to comply with the audio description rules due in part to the repeat rule. TBS has many reruns. TBS also claims that a waiver would allow it “greater flexibility to account for expected future changes in the programming mix, which could include more repeat programming, less newly produced programing, and more live and near live programming, including during prime time, such as a new Major League Baseball game on Tuesday nights.”

The petition by WarnerMedia asks for a limited waiver of the audio description rules covering the period April 1, 2021, through June 2024, subject to the conditions that TBS

(1) airs at least 1,000 hours of described programming each quarter (and more than 1,400 hours of described programming on average per quarter over the waiver period) without regard to the number of repeats; and (2) describe 100 percent of newly produced, non-live programming aired between 6:00 a.m. and midnight ET within three business days of its receipt from a production company. Additionally, if granted the limited waiver, WarnerMedia commits that it would describe 100% of newly produced, non-live programming aired between 6:00 a.m. and midnight ET within three business days of receipt on TNT and TruTV, TBS sister networks.

This request is similar to the one made by NBCUniversal on behalf of USANetwork. However,  WarnerMedia is offering to have 400 hours more of described programming on average per quarter than what NBCUniversal offered, and to describe 100% of new programs instead of the 75% offered by NBCUniversal. 

We applaud the commitment of WarnerMedia to make its programming accessible, specially to the commitment to describe 100% of the newly produced programing not only on TBS, but also in TNT and TruTV.  However, in the case of any waiver, the FCC must be cautious to keep a waiver from going in detriment of the progress already reached in favor of the audiences with visual impairment.

 

Sources:

- "Media Bureau Seeks Comment on TBS’s Petition for Limited Waiver of Audio Description Requirements" Federal Communications Commission, April 29-2021, https://docs.fcc.gov/public/attachments/DA-21-497A1.pdf

- "Video Description." Federal Communications Commission, https://www.fcc.gov/general/video-description

 

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