MPAA: FCC Exceeding Authority in Video Description Expansion

Aligned with cable ops on key aspects of proposal

TV studios are in agreement with cable operators that the FCC does not have the authority to take many of the steps it has proposed in expanding its statutory mandate on video described programming.

In comments on the FCC proposal, the Motion Picture Association of America said the FCC lacks the authority to expand the number of covered networks from the current four broadcast and five nonbroadcast networks (the FCC wants five and 10, respectively), cannot require those networks to continue to video describe after they have fallen out of the top five (or 10), and can't extend the requirement to VOD.

MPAA does agree with the FCC proposal to increase the number of video described hours from 50 per calendar quarter to 87.5, but only so long as there is "suitable study" of the practicality of the proposal and industry has flexibility as to what programming counts toward the requirement as well as sufficient time to prepare.

That came in comments on a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking approved in March over the partial dissents of Republicans. That March vote was the latest step in implementing the 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act (CVAA), something FCC chairman Tom Wheeler has made a priority in his efforts to promote universal communications access, in this case blind and sight impaired viewers to the most popular video programming.

Given Wheeler's passion for the issue, any major changes to the item before a final vote are likely a long shot.