Video-description trigger stay sought

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The TV and movie industries have asked the Federal Communications Commission
to stay the April 1 through June 30 deadline for describing at least 50 hours
per quarter of on-screen action as an aid to the blind.

The National Association of Broadcasters, the National Cable &
Telecommunications Association and the Motion Picture Association of America
have challenged the rules in federal appeals court and said TV stations, cable
systems and programming networks should not be required to buy equipment to
comply with rules that stand a 'substantial likelihood' of being struck
down.

The groups argued that the FCC did not have congressional authority to impose
video-description rules -- only a mandate from lawmakers to study the issue and
report back to Capitol Hill.

In the motion for stay, the groups pointed out that current FCC chairman
Michael Powell voted against the rules for that very reason when he was a
commissioner.

Despite his vote, Powell is expected to direct FCC attorneys to defend the
rules in court because as chairman, it is now his job to defend standing FCC
rules. In fact, the FCC reminded the industry Monday of the pending
deadline.

The American Council of the Blind 'categorically condemned' the industries'
motion for delay.

'Instead of doing the right thing, the trade associations have acted entirely
irresponsibly, ignoring the needs of all of the blind and visually impaired
people in the United States,' the ACB said in a prepared statement.

Broadcasters said adding video description to a program costs between $1,000
and $4,000 per hour. Hardware and systems upgrades may cost cable networks
between $100,000 and $200,000, the NCTA has said.

Additionally, transmission of descriptions over the secondary audio channel
will interfere with some Spanish-language simulcasting, broadcasters
said.

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