By Cheryl Heppner, 5/10/10
On May 7, 2010, the Media Bureau of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) released a Memorandum Opinion and Order which could greatly improve access to movie downloads for individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing.
The FCC opinion and order is in response to a request filed nearly a year ago by the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), which wanted a waiver of FCC rules to protect “early-release” films from copying by home viewers. The term “early release” generally refers to movies made available for home viewing within weeks after they are released in theaters.
The FCC’s decision aims to give the companies who belong to the MPAA, and the partner companies that provide their movies for home viewing, a limited waiver to disable audio-visual outputs. One of the FCC’s conditions in allowing this waiver is that individuals with hearing disabilities must be able to access closed captioning. Our friends who are blind or visually impaired would also benefit from the FCC’s encouragement that the set-top devices used to access these early-release movies be able to receive video description.
Here is the specific language from the Memorandum Opinion and Order:
16. Closed Captioning and Video Description.
The American Association of People with Disabilities favors MPAA’s plan to offer high-definition films before the general in-home viewing release date and asserts it will serve our nation’s disabled citizens by increasing the entertainment options available in the home.(58)
The National Association of the Deaf argues that granting the requested Waiver can serve a vital role to our nation’s deaf and blind citizens if the new product offerings include closed captioning and video description, as less than 1 percent of films shown in movie theaters are shown with captions. (59)
We agree that MPAA’s proposed service may provide a benefit to viewers with disabilities, particularly given that video-on-demand services must be offered with closed captions.(60) We condition grant of this waiver on the waiver holder’s providing consumer education about how individuals with hearing disabilities can access closed captioning when using the proposed service.
We further encourage MVPDs that take advantage of the waiver to ensure that the set-top devices used to access this new service are able to pass through video description when provided as part of the programming stream. We will monitor the developments in this area, and we encourage the public to aid us in this effort.
Reprinted with permission. Northern Virginia Resource Center for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Persons (NVRC), 3951 Pender Drive, Suite 130, Fairfax, VA 22030; www.nvrc.org; 703-352-9055 V, 703-352-9056 TTY, 703-352-9058 Fax.