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Sign the Petition to

Motion Picture Association of the United States

WE THE PEOPLE of the United States request that our blind and vision impaired citizens be recognized and not forgotten by the Motion Picture Association of America and further request that the Motion Picture Association of the United States provide economic incentives for movie theaters to provide the Descriptive Video Service for the those who are blind and vision impaired.The Descriptive Video Service (DVS) is a major United States producer of video description, which makes visual media, such as television programs, feature films, and home videos, more accessible to people who are blind or otherwise visually impaired. DVS often is used to describe the product itself. In 1985, TV station WGBH, the Boston, Massachusetts, member of the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS), began investigating uses for the new technology of stereophonic television broadcasting, particularly multichannel television sound (MTS), which allowed for a third audio channel, called the Secondary Audio Program (SAP). With a history of developing closed captioning of programs for hearing-impaired viewers, WGBH considered the viability of using the new audio channel for narrated descriptions of key visual elements, much like those being done for live theater in Washington, D.C., by Margaret Pfanstiehl, who had been experimenting with television description as part of her Washington Ear radio reading service. After reviewing and conducting various studies, which found that blind and visually impaired people were consuming more television than ever but finding the activity problematic often relying on sighted family and friends to describe for them, WGBH consulted more closely with Pfanstiehl and her husband, Cody, and then conducted its first tests of DVS in Boston in 1986. These tests consisted of broadcasting to local groups of people of various ages and visual impairments and further studies were successful enough to merit a grant from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting to complete plans to establish the DVS organization permanently in 1988. After national testing, more feedback, more development of description technique, and additional grants, DVS became a regular feature of selected PBS programming in 1990. Later, DVS became an available feature in some films and home videos, including DVDs. Technique DVS describers watch a program and write a script describing visual elements which are important in understanding what is occurring at the time and the plot as a whole. For example, in the opening credit sequence of the children's series Arthur on PBS, the description has been performed as follows: "Arthur is an 8-year-old aardvark. He wears round glasses with thick frames over his big eyes. He has two round ears on top of his oval-shaped head. He wears red sneakers and blue jeans, with a yellow sweater over a white shirt." The length of descriptions and their placement by a producer into the program are largely dictated by what can fit in natural pauses in dialogue. Other producers of description may have other priorities, such as synchronization with the timing of a described element's appearance, which differ from DVS's priority for detail. Once recorded, placed and mixed with a copy of the original soundtrack, the DVS track is then "laid back" to the master tape on a separate audio track for broadcast on the SAP or to its own DVS master for home video. For feature films, the descriptions are not mixed with the soundtrack, but kept separate as part of a DTS soundtrack FCC Involvement When the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) started establishing various requirements for broadcasters in larger markets to improve their accessibility to audiences with hearing and vision impairments, DVS branched out to non-PBS programming, and soon description could be heard on the SAP for shows such as CSI: Crime Scene Investigation and The Simpsons. However, a federal court ruled in 2002 that the Federal Communications Commission had exceeded its jurisdiction by requiring broadcasters in the top 25 markets to carry video description. Since that time, the amount of new DVS television programming in the United States has declined, as has access to information regarding upcoming described programming, and as broadcasters like ABC and Fox have instead decided to devote their SAP channels to Spanish language dubbing tracks of their shows rather than DVS. Description by DVS and other producers is still available on television (the greatest percentage of DVS programming is still on PBS). WGBH's Media Access Group continues supporting description of feature films known as DVS Theatrical and DVS home videos/DVDs are available from WGBH as well as other vendors and libraries. The commercial caption provider CaptionMax has also begun to describe programs. The 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act of 2010 reinstates the FCC's involvement in providing rules for video description. Under the rules, affiliates in the top 25 markets and the top five-rated cable networks will have to provide at least 50 hours of video described programming per quarter, starting July 1, 2012. It is now time for the Motion Picture Association of America to assist our blind and vision impaired citizens to have an equal opportunity to enjoy the benefits of movies in the theaters of America.Please send this petition to the Motion Picture Association of America to their Washigton, D.C. and Los Angeles addresses.Washington, D.C.1600 Eye St., NW Washington, D.C. 20006(202) 293-1966 (main)(202) 296-7410 (fax)Los Angeles15301 Ventura Blvd., Building E Sherman Oaks, CA 91403(818) 995-6600 (main)(818) 285-4403 (fax)


Grason Eckel

How this will help

The Motion Picture Association of America should be sensitive to our blind and vision impaired citizens.

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