[blindkid] Audio Described Holiday Programs On TV

Richard Holloway rholloway at gopbc.org
Sun Dec 8 06:46:52 UTC 2013

The following is a lot to read, but if you want to find some holiday shows with DVS, this will probably help make that possible. It is that time of year again-- when I can't help but suggest to any who of you who haven't yet, to consider exploring DVS Television programming for your blind kids. New laws, and perhaps a better attitude in the TV industry towards accessibility are making DVS more and more available on many people's home TV systems.

The following are some programs to watch for this December which are believed to be running with DVS:

"How the Grinch Stole Christmas" (1966 Cartoon Version) shows to be running with DVS on TBS Sunday, December 7, 3:00
The Grinch also re-runs December 13 at 8:00 pm
note that the December 12 Grinch broadcast on TOON (Cartoon Network) is much less likely to run with DVS.

"Four Christmases" (rated TV-14, so not for little kids) is on TBS, December 8, at 6:00 pm. It is listed to have DVS.

Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer is on CBS December 14, at 8:00 pm  It is NOT listed with DVS but I was told it ran on CBS last year with DVS. I will be recording this, "just in case."

Frosty the Snowman runs on CBS, December 14, at 9:00 pm. It is also NOT listed with DVS, not even on their separate DVS schedule, but I checked in on an earlier broadcast last week on CBS and it WAS running with DVS. This is very likely ti run with DVS.

"Frosty Returns" December 14, at 9:30 pm may also be worth a check, since CBS may well have just run two other Christmas shows with DVS right before it.

"A Christmas Carol" on TNT December 20, at 9:00 pm shows to have DVS on TNT's listings. It re-shows at midnight as well (three hours later).
The blurb on the TNT schedule does not make clear which version this is (no actors listed, etc.)

"A Christmas Story" (marathon) Christmas Eve / Christmas Day-- usually starts at 8:00 Christmas Eve on TBS. It runs for 24 hours. I can't find it listed on their schedule yet (my schedules only lists programs 2 weeks in advance), and the last two years, it did NOT seem to be listed with DVS, but it ran with DVS anyhow (I confirmed this both years). I fully expect it will have DVS again this year.

The CBS Cartoon "Yes, Virginia"  (as in Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus) ran with DVS a few days ago on CBS. It didn't seem to be publicized as having DVS, but it was described nonetheless. Watch for it next year, I don't see any repeats listed yet...

More on How/Where to find the "DVS," "descriptive video service," "audio description," "video description," etc.-- the name may vary...

Most DVS programming seems to appear as if it were being broadcast in Spanish in your program controls. Generally the "SAP" or separate audio program setting has no effect on finding DVS, as crazy as that may sound. Many programs on published DVS guides list some programs as having "SAP". That seems to mean they run with Spanish available-- look for "DVS" instead in these guides, especially for Turner Networks Programming instead.

If you receive your TV by way of an antenna, look for audio controls in your TV set's settings. If you select your channels on a cable box, the settings or audio controls on the cable tuner are the best place to start. Most likely, your actual TV controls will not effect the audio selected if you don't change channels on your actual TV set. If you use TiVo or Dish TV, etc., check in the setup for that system. Older systems often required you to record with the correct audio selected, some newer systems let you record all the languages so you can still check multiple sound tracks even when you're playing back

TNT, TBS, and perhaps other Turner Network stations seem to have three language options running most of the time. On these networks, Spanish (when offered) seems to generally run as "Spanish". When there is no Spanish, they seem to run (non-described) English on the Spanish setting. The next language that comes up on my TiVo is Portuguese and that's where I seem to generally find DVS (when available) on TNT and TBS. Both are Turner stations. Strangely, my Comcast converter shows the third language from these stations as French. 

On any given network (not just Turner), at times, you will find English running on all available audio streams, and none may be described. Other times, some streams may be blank or running entirely unrelated audio. If you're watching an HD network, one trick to try if you expect to find DVS and you don't is to change to the SD (lower video resolution) version of the station. For some reason sometimes the HD and SD channels with the same program don't both carry DVS, and almost every time, it is the HD channel which has the DVS missing when that happens. (Your mileage may vary.)

You may also find an actual SAP setting, or even an "audio description" listing in your controls. Generally this is NOT where you will find audio description. Don't be discouraged if you check those and a program listed with DVS appears not to have it. Check the alternate language options. This is almost always where you will locate any available DVS.

The above is just the tip of the iceberg for DVS. I'm sure there are upcoming holiday shows I have missed and some of my listings may be wrong as all we can do in some cases is guess. Also, some local broadcasters may not be relaying the DVS even though it is provided.

Right now, ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox, USA, the Disney Channel, Nickelodeon, TNT, and TBS are required to provide 50 hours a week of DVS programming in the top 25 TV markets of the country.  New York is number one. Atlanta is 8th, for my local friends, and Raleigh-Durham / Fayetteville, NC is 25th. If your market is as big or bigger than Raleigh-Durham, you're on the list.

In practice the network affiliates seem to be providing DVS most everywhere, but it isn't always required. PBS and TCM provide some DVS programs too, but are not required to do so. Satellite networks must pass along DVS provided by Nick, Disney, TBS, TNT, and USA. Cable providers with 50,000 or more subscribers are also required to do so. Local affiliates are required to pass along DVS from networks even if they are NOT in the top 25 markets IF they have the technical capability to do so, and most local affiliates do have this capability.

What this all boils down to is that more and more TV viewers have and/or are gaining more access to audio descriptions, and while it may be a hassle to figure out where to turn it on, once you know how, it gets a lot easier. A note for blind people who want better access to manage their own program option controls-- audio accessible access to actual controls is a requirement for many future systems to access DVS, so this will get easier in the future. Over time, more and more programs will be offered, and there is a good chance that DVS will one day become as ubiquitous as closed captioning for the hearing impaired, probably not too far down the road.

Those of you who may have stuck it out to read this whole post, be aware that many, many more movies are also available described in theaters these days than in recent years. Check first for a Regal theater in your area as they have added systems in a great many of their theaters which offer DVS on every screening of nearly every movie they show. A notable exception was a recent Thanksgiving release "Free Birds" which was not available described, but that is the only new release I have personally checked on in the past year or more which Regal was not running with DVS (so long as they were screening the title I checked on). It is not unusual to see every movie being screened at a nearby 24 screen Regal offering DVS at the same time. Quite a change from a few years ago!

There are also more and more described movies released on DVD these days. Here is a list of how many known videos (for kids and adults combined) have been released with DVS over the past several years:

2013:      61 titles (as of December 8, 2013)
2012:      86
2011:      81
2010:      49
2009:      13
2008:        7
2007:        4
2006:        4
2005:        3
2004:        3
2003:        4
2002:        0
2001:        1

I'd call that progress! 

If you want to find a DVD with the DVS option and a Christmas theme, the live action (Jim Carey) version of How the Grinch Stole Christmas is an option, as are both Arthur Christmas, and the DISNEY version of A Christmas Carol (also with Jim Carey). Check the languages shown on the back before you buy to be certain you have the right version of the right movie in hand!

For more information on DVS in general, her is an outstanding link:


The above is for "The Audio Description Project", a substantial undertaking offering a wealth of information on Audio Description. Much of the information I have in this post  is available in much greater detail on their site. Thanks to them for offering so much reference material on this topic.

Finally, if you want to check and see where a movie is playing in a theater with DVS, below is another excellent link (for a site called Captionfish), though if you check with a local Regal theater, you may also learn that they run most EVERY film with available DVS. If you use Captionfish, be CERTAIN to use the filter and set it to "Descriptive Video". If you don't, results will intermix DVS and captioned options.


Happy Holidays to you all!


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