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Broadcasters Amplify Coronavirus Efforts, Best Practices Across Airwaves


03.18.20

Washington, DC – Spreading the word to Americans on best practices to stay safe and healthy during COVID-19 has required an all-hands-on-deck approach to make sure accurate information can be found across communications mediums – online, in the papers, and through the airwaves.

Our broadcasters have stepped up to the plate. The National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) announced a Public Service Announcement (PSA) campaign for local radio and television stations across communities. Included in this campaign is a toolkit with editorial guidance for stations – in English and in Spanish – so Americans in all zip codes can stay informed. NAB CEO Gordon Smith also asked for multichannel video production distributors (MVPDs) and social media companies to help them to stop the spread of false information and make sure service is not interrupted.

These efforts come after the efforts of Energy and Commerce Committee Republican Leader Greg Walden (R-OR) to work with stakeholders to make sure our broadcasters have a loud voice during this time. Walden is a former radio station owner and operator, so he has a special appreciation for their role to spread important information in a time of crisis.

The coronavirus task force and Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Ajit Pai are working on other ways to ensure robust, consistent, and informative messaging on the airwaves by having recommendations from the Centers of Disease Control and Protection (CDC) for stations to air and avoiding service disruptions as much as possible.

Read more in this morning’s POLITICO Pro Morning Tech e-newsletter.

ALSO ON THE TELECOM TABLE: ALL EYES ON BROADCASTERS — President Donald Trump’s coronavirus task force and FCC Chairman Ajit Pai spoke to broadcasters this week to assess how they can help. Vice President Mike Pence said public service announcements will boost CDC guidance, while Pai is urging broadcasters to air PSAs to promote social distancing. The National Association of Broadcasters announced a PSA campaign last week.

— Pai also asked broadcasters to avoid service disruptions over the next two months during their business negotiations with cable and satellite TV providers. And the FCC is providing flexibility as broadcasters wrap up the so-called repacking process, in which they vacate airwaves that were sold to wireless carriers during the commission’s broadcast TV incentive auction. As the FCC noted Tuesday, at least one tower company is suspending some of its related operations for the moment because of the virus.

— The FCC also waived some of the rules for its low-income subsidy program known as Lifeline on Tuesday to make sure Americans stay connected (Democratic Commissioner Geoffrey Starks is pleased but says more is necessary). The FCC also granted a request from wireless carrier U.S. Cellular to temporarily boost its capacity through the use of other airwaves.

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