Activists for the blind have been out of sorts for the past 18 months because of a court decision throwing out FCC rules requiring narration of some prime time and children’s programming.
Under rules approved in 2000, network O&Os and big-market affiliates were required to provide four hours of narration a week. The mandate also applied to Lifetime, USA Network, TBS, Nickelodeon and TNT, the top-five cable nets when the mandate was set.
After broadcasters sued, the court ruled that the FCC was authorized by Congress only to study whether a narration mandate would benefit the blind, not to actually impose one.
Now, key members of Congress are stepping in to give the FCC that authority. Rep. Ed Markey, the House Telecommunications Subcommittee’s top Democrat, have introduced legislation giving the FCC power to reinstate its narration quota. He’s joined by Sens. John McCain and Ernest Hollings, the chairman and ranking Democrat, respectively, of the Senate Commerce Committee. “Congress ought to give the commission clear guidance that no court could question,” Markey says.