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FCC Rule to Aid Blind TV Viewers Is Nullified

Federal appeals court says networks can't be compelled to include audio descriptions of action on the screen.

November 09, 2002|From Associated Press

WASHINGTON — An appeals court Friday threw out Federal Communications Commission rules requiring television programs to include audio descriptions of the action on the screen.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit said Congress did not give the FCC the power to order what is known as "video description" when it asked the agency to study the issue of accommodating the blind.

Under video description, a narrator describes the action during natural pauses between dialogue.

The description is available on a secondary channel. The FCC had ordered the four major commercial networks -- Fox, CBS, NBC and ABC -- to provide 50 hours of such programming

The Motion Picture Assn. of America challenged the rules in court, claiming the FCC was not authorized to issue them. The appeals court agreed.

"In short, the FCC can point to no statutory provision that gives the agency authority to mandate visual description rules," the court said.

"Congress authorized and ordered the commission to produce a report -- nothing more, nothing less."

MPAA President Jack Valenti applauded the court's decision.

"The MPAA and our member companies support video description on a voluntary basis," Valenti said, "and we will continue to make available our filmed entertainment to as wide an audience as possible, specifically including the blind and those with impaired vision."

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