“The COVID-19 national emergency continues.” That blunt assessment from the Federal Communications Commission has led the agency to extend through August 31 a blanket waiver to radio and television stations looking to repurpose advertising time. Since April the FCC has said it would waive some sponsorship identification rules under a set of limited circumstances where advertisers are donating their ad time.
Even as stay-at-home orders have mostly been lifted, the rolling back of some openings over the weekend has meant that some advertisers may no longer be able to use the commercial time they have already bought and paid for. Similar to what has been allowed for the past three months, those clients can donate their spot time for the airing of public service announcements related to the coronavirus pandemic without on-air identification, the FCC says. Typically, under the sponsor identification rules, those PSAs would need to announce or display the name of the business that had originally purchased and then donated the advertising time.
“Given the absence of material changes in the circumstances underlying the initial grant of waiver of the sponsorship identification requirements, and consistent with other Commission actions related to the pandemic, we find that good cause exists to extend the previously granted waiver of our sponsorship identification requirements through August 31, 2020, in this unique situation,” Media Bureau Chief Michelle Carey wrote in an order released late Friday. The order only covers PSAs that are prepared on behalf of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), or other governmental agencies or public health authorities.
The idea to repurpose spot time to promote public health messages was first floated by the Ad Council, but the FCC quickly embraced the suggestion as one of the ways the agency could show some flexibility to radio and television stations coping with the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on advertising.