VIDEO DESCRIPTION – MANDATED AS OF JULY 1 – COULD BRING 30 MILLION POTENTIAL NEW VIEWERS TO NETWORK PROGRAMMING
Descriptive Video Works CEO Diane Johnson Proclaims July 1st Independence Day For Blind and Visually Impaired
Vancouver, B.C. June 25, 2012 – Diane Johnson, founder and chief executive officer of Descriptive Video Works, one of the leading providers fro video description services in North America, is proclaiming July 1, 2012 as Independence Day for the nearly 30 million blind and visually impaired Americans. July 1, 2012 is the deadline set by the FCC for the top broadcast and cable networks to begin providing a minimum of four hours per week of video described programming – a secondary audio track narration describing the visual elements in each scene that add to a program’s plot or storyline and is inserted between natural pauses in dialogue – creating a more robust television experience for the blind and visually impaired audience. Video description could also increase ratings for those networks offering the service.
“Thanks to the Twenty-First Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act (CVAA), blind and visually impaired citizens of the U.S. are finally gaining the access they deserve to the information, communication and entertainment that most of us take for granted,” said Johnson in issuing the proclamation. “All of us that serve and advocate for the blind and visually impaired are thankful for the access provided by this initiative, and are encouraged by the number of networks and content producers who are stepping up to provide video description beyond the mandated hours. Video description offers the blind and visually impaired an opportunity to learn more about the visual world and provides them with a better understanding and more dynamic television experience, helps them to enjoy a greater social connection through shared entertainment and fosters a stronger sense of independence.”
Shirley Manning, director of Junior Blind of America’s adult program, the Davidson Program for Independence, added, “As an organization that strives to help those who are blind or visually impaired achieve independence, everyone at Junior Blind of America could not be more pleased that our students will have greater access to televised content through video described programming. We hope this will inspire other platforms, like museums, theaters and other cultural venues to provide similar video description services.”
In 1996, the U.S. Congress required video programming distributors (cable operators, broadcasters, satellite distributors and other multi-channel video programming distributors) to close caption their television programs. This was a great service for some 20 million people who are hard of hearing or functionally deaf in this country, but since closed captioning is text display showing a transcription of the dialogue from a program, it doesn’t benefit the blind or visually impaired.
In 2000, the FCC adopted rules requiring certain broadcasters and Multiple Video Programming Distributors (Comcast, AT&T, etc.) to carry a limited amount of programming with video description — an audio track added to the program which provides a rich description of the scene and action taking place in conjunction with the dialogue. But five months later, after an intense lobbying effort, the U.S. Court of Appeals dismissed the FCC ruling on the grounds that the Commission lacked sufficient authority.
On October 8, 2010, President Obama signed the Twenty-First Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act (CVAA) into law. The CVAA calls for the top national networks’ (ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC) and affiliates in the top 25 markets and the five top-rated cable networks — Nickelodeon/Nick at Nite, TBS, TNT, The Disney Channel and USA – and the cable and satellite systems with at least 50,000 subscribers that carry them have to provide a minimum of 50 hours per quarter, or roughly 4 hours per week, of video described programming in prime time and/or children’s programming. The FCC set the deadline for compliance for July 1, 2012 and will expand the number of hours of video described programming and increase the coverage areas in an effort to ensure 100% accessibility for the blind and visually impaired by 2020.
At that time, FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyborn said, “In providing video description, America’s blind community will not only be able to enjoy the entertainment that video content providers offer, but they will also be part of the conversation around it. I want to stress this, as I can imagine how left out a visually-impaired child feels when his or her classmates are discussing what happened on a popular show the night before, and to not be a part of that conversation or be able to follow along. The same is true for blind adults, for whom the proverbial water cooler chats about TV shows hold little meaning or enjoyment. This item will assist those individuals in getting even closer to the mainstream when it comes to popular culture, and we are a better and more complete nation for it.”
With the FCC’s mandated July 1, 2012 deadline for video description, television networks, program producers, news organizations and online video platforms now have nearly 30 million very compelling reasons for compliance.
About Descriptive Video Works
Descriptive Video Works (DVW) has been successfully providing video description services for the past nine years in Canada, proving that video description is not only technically possible, it’s also affordable and efficient to produce this much needed service. Expanding into the U.S. in 2011, DVW has earned the respect of such organizations as Junior Blind of America for its commitment to providing a full, rich entertainment experience for the blind and visually impaired throughout North America.
To date, the company has produced video description tracks for hundreds of films — “Castaway,” “Driving Miss Daisy,” “Silent House,” “Lockout” and the soon to be released “End of Watch” — and television series, including “I Love Lucy,” “Everybody Loves Raymond,” and children’s series “Dino Dan.” DVW has also provided live video description for “So You Think You Can Dance” (Canada), an industry first, as well as for the Canadian Juno Awards ceremony and coverage of the 2011 British Royal Wedding. DVW also trains on-air talent and news anchors in live video description in an effort to provide more engaging content for blind and visually impaired audiences. The company also provides video description for online video platforms and for interactive video formats.