In the last three weeks, we have written about actions that the FCC has taken to help broadcasters through the current crisis caused by the COVID-19 virus. The FCC appears to realize that the business of broadcasting in the current crisis is vastly different than it was just a month ago. The FCC has provided relief on TV newsgathering and news sharing arrangements, issued a determination that no charge spots unrelated to an existing advertising schedule do not affect lowest unit rates, granted liberal extensions to stations in Phase 9 of the TV repacking, deferred the filing of Quarterly Issues Programs Lists and the Annual Children’s Television Reports to July 10, and recognized that college-owned stations that are silent when students are no longer on campus do not need an STA to remain silent. In a webinar I conducted for a number of state broadcast associations last Thursday, I summarized these developments and talked about other FCC rules and policies that broadcasters need to continue to observe during the current crisis. That webinar is available on the website of the Indiana Broadcasters Association which hosted the session and can be viewed here.
On Friday, the FCC added to the actions that it has taken to assist broadcasters – issuing a Public Notice adopting a policy that, through June 30, commercial advertisers can donate ad time to government agencies or charities to run PSAs dealing with issues relating to COVID-19 without the station having to identify the companies donating the spots as sponsors of the PSA. Even though the commercial sponsors paid for the time, they don’t need to associate themselves with the virus spots. This was at the request of the Ad Council, which suggested that some advertisers had ad time that they no longer needed but were reluctant to donate it to COVID PSAs as they feared that, if they were identified as sponsors, their businesses would somehow be associated with the virus. While it may be the unusual situation where an advertiser cancels its ad schedule and is willing to donate the advertising time for charitable uses without acknowledgement, in some cases it may give broadcasters one more way to try to convince advertisers not to totally cancel their schedules. And it shows that the FCC is continuing to do its best to assist advertisers in this trying time. Watch for more developments in the coming weeks.