The TV industry doesn’t have to provide blow-by-blow narration to accompany dialogue for the visually impaired, a federal appeals court ruled Friday.
Decision strikes down a Federal Communications Commission rule that required major market TV stations, top cable nets and satcasters to supply about four hours a week of such narration for primetime shows.
Court battle over the regulation was waged by the Motion Picture Assn. of America, the National Assn. of Broadcasters and the National Cable & Telecom Assn. Orgs said the service could cost anywhere from $1 million to $5.4 million by the end of this year alone.
MPAA prexy-CEO Jack Valenti said the FCC lacked the authority when approving the access rule in 2000. He welcomed Friday’s court ruling, which overturned a lower court’s order affirming the reg.
“The MPAA and our member companies support video description on a voluntary basis, and we will continue to make available our filmed entertainment to as wide an audience as possible, specifically including the blind and those with impaired vision,” Valenti said.
When drawing up the rule, the FCC said it was deluged with letters from the blind or visually impaired who were eagerly awaiting the advent of video description. Such narration is inserted into natural pauses of audio programming.
The National Council for the Blind had long fought for video description; the National Federation for the Blind had opposed making it a mandate.
The Council for the Blind could not be reached for comment regarding Friday’s decision.
The TV biz was in the process of implementing the new narrative requirement when the federal appeals court handed down its decision.