[Nfbktad] Audio Description
dandrews at visi.com
Fri Jun 15 05:05:04 CDT 2012
Beginning July 1, ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC, plus the
top five cable networks will begin providing
audio descriptions of some of their programming
for blind or sight-impaired viewers. The shows to
be described range from ABC's Modern Family to
CBS's NCIS to Nickelodeon's Dora the Explorer to USA's Royal Pains.
For now, stations in the top 25 markets and cable
systems with 50,000 or more subs will be required
to offer about four hours a week of the new
service. The number of stations and hours will gradually increase.
Starting July 1, the countrys 21.5 million
visually impaired people will be able to enjoy TV more than ever before.
On that day, the Big Four broadcast networks and
the top five-rated cable networks will begin
offering four hours a week of so-called video
descriptions that clue in blind and partially
sighted viewers on what's going on when the
characters aren't talking. The descriptions,
audible only to viewers who want them to be
audible, are squeezed in between the dialog.
Video descriptions have been part of
broadcasting, cable, home video, but never to the
extent on TV as they will be beginning next month.
It's not altruism driving the surge in
descriptions. They were mandated by Congress in
the 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act of 2010.
According to the FCC's implementing rules, the
Big Four O&Os and affiliates in the top 25
markets will have to air 50 hours each quarter
or roughly four hours a week of described programming.
Cable and satellite systems with at least 50,000
subscribers have to offer the same amount of
described programming for the top five-rated
cable networks currently Disney, Nickelodeon, TBS, TNT and USA.
And with just weeks to go before the deadline,
the described programming plans of nine affected networks are shaping up.
ABCs plan is to provide descriptions on some of
its Tuesday and Wednesday shows. This summer,
those shows include sitcoms Last Man Standing,
The Middle, Suburgatory, Modern Family, Happy
Endings and Don't Trust the B---- in Apt. 23.
In the fall, ABC will likely include most of
those shows and new sitcom The Neighbors and new drama Nashville.
CBS has been providing audio descriptions for
several programs since 2002. The lineup is CSI,
Criminal Minds, NCIS, NCIS: Los Angeles, plus movies and miniseries.
NBC has broadcast a slew of shows with
descriptions, including the Betty White reality
show Off Their Rockers, drama Grimm and the
summer series Saving Hope. Described sitcoms
include The Office, Up All Night and Parks and Recreation.
At Fox, The Simpsons has been audio described for
several years. Beyond the animated sitcom, Fox
isn't prepared to say what it would be offering.
Disney Channel's described shows will include hit
sitcoms Jessie, A.N.T. Farm and the animated Phineas and Ferb.
Nickelodeon will offer descriptions for some of
its biggest hits, like the long-running animated
Dora the Explorer and preschool educational show Team Umizoomi.
Turner Broadcasting will have described movies as
well as TV series. Among the series: TNTs The
Closer and TBSs Tyler Perry comedies House of Payne and For Better or Worse.
USAs described programs will include off-network
shows NCIS and Law & Order: SVU, plus originals like Royal Pains and Suits.
My hope is that more and more networks will
embrace these accessibility initiatives, says
Joel Snyder, president of Audio Description
Associates. He serves as director of the American
Council of the Blinds audio description project and is an adviser to the FCC.
If they do it right, they'll find ways to make
money from it. If they make their shows
accessible to these folks, there is a bigger
market for advertisers to sell their products.
For the most part, video-described programs won't
include live shows or news. The networks, which
are providing most of this content to their
affiliates, need time to write description scripts for voice artists to record.
It takes longer to get that done than closed
captioning, says one network executive. It also
requires us to look at how our post-production
schedules are set up. We have to work very
closely with the folks at the post-production
houses to make sure we get the programming to our
vendors with sufficient time to get the video description correct.
Producing the descriptions costs between $2,000 to $4,000 per hour.
The networks and some associations for the blind
are helping to ensure that people with vision
problems know that descriptions are coming.
Its great for the networks to comply, but
whats more important is getting the information
out to folks, says Helena Berger, EVP-COO of the
American Association of People with Disabilities.
She is also a member of Comcast-NBCUniversals joint diversity council.
What we can do on our end at AAPD is to use our
communication channels, like our newsletter, our
website and social media to get the word out to the community.
Some of the networks are creating logos and audio
tones so that people with vision problems know
when a program has audio descriptions. So far,
there isn't an industry standard.
And TV listing providers like Tribune Media
Services will provide data to programming
services to let them know if a program is
audio-described. Then, its up to individual
cable systems to add symbols or sounds to their on-screen listings.
These described programs are the culmination of a
12-year battle by the FCC and groups such as the
Audio Description Institute. They thought they
had won the battle in 2000 when the FCC adopted
rules similar to the 2010 act, but a court agreed
with broadcasters that the agency had overstepped its authority.
Now backed by law, the new FCC rules gradually
expand the description obligations to other TV
stations. By July 1, 2015, major network
affiliates in the top 60 markets will have to
broadcast the descriptions. The FCC may require
additional stations to air descriptions at a rate
of 10 markets a year if it deems the cost is reasonable.
According to broadcasters, it costs stations
anywhere from $10,000 and $25,000 to install the
gear necessary to handle the extra audio channel.
Just because someone has a disability doesn't
mean they don't want to be included in life,
says Debra Ruh, chief marketing officer at SSB
Bart Group, a firm that helps companies make
their computer services and websites fully
compliant and accessible to people with
disabilities. Part of participating in life is
being able to experience television. TV is a very
important part of our culture.
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