FCC Continues Proactive Broadcaster Actions During Coronavirus Outbreak

Posted on April 30th, 2020 by

At the end of March, we reported a number of FCC actions taken that were helpful to broadcasters in light of access, economic and other issues resulting from the coronavirus pandemic.  The FCC continued those types of actions in April, and more may be forthcoming.  Our firm has raised questions regarding potential relaxation of some EEO requirements, and we anticipate some action on that front in coming weeks.

Below are short summaries on the Media Bureau’s coronavirus actions in April.

On April 3rd, the Media Bureau waived the sponsorship identification requirements in situations where advertising entities donate previously purchased airtime to be used for the airing of public service announcements prepared by or on behalf of the CDC or other governmental authorities regarding COVID-19.  Normally, the sponsorship ID rules would require identification of the entity that donated the time, but that has been waived.  This waiver will remain in place through June 30, 2020 and be re-evaluated then.

In an April 9th public notice, the Media Bureau granted television broadcasters a temporary, limited waiver of their obligations to air weekly, regularly scheduled children’s programming in order to enable them to more easily air live and taped same-day local content, like religious services in those time slots. There will be no requirement that such preempted children’s programming be rescheduled.  This waiver ends April 30th.

By Order dated April 9th, the Media Bureau waived the remaining pre-filing renewal announcements requirement for radio and TV stations scheduled to file license renewal applications June 1, 2020.  Radio stations in Michigan and Ohio were in that group, as well as TV stations in DC, Maryland, Virginia and West Virginia.  Post-filing renewal announcements are still required.  It is possible that the FCC will extend similar relief to stations in the next renewal group, but be prepared to air them as normal.