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FCC Extends COVID-19 PSA Sponsorship ID Waiver

(Image credit: Future Media)

The FCC has extended its COVID-19 PSA sponsorship ID waiver through Aug. 31, saying the pandemic is a unique situation and a continuing national emergency.

Back on April 3, the FCC waived its advertising disclosure rules for COVID-19 public service announcements using donated commercial ad time to June 30. 

It said it would reevaluate at that time, and has.

"At this time, the COVID-19 national emergency continues," the Media Bureau said in extending the waiver. "Although many states have lifted 'stay-at-home' orders through various phased reopening approaches, many restrictions, including 'social distancing' measures, remain in effect with uncertain timetables for their removal. Federal, state, and local governments remain engaged in planning how they will allow schools, businesses, and localities to reopen. And, even with the loosening of state restrictions, many employers continue to maintain much of their workforce working remotely [that includes the FCC]."

And so, said the bureau, "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 Aug. 31, 2020, in this unique situation."

Ordinarily, a TV spot has to include a disclosure of who paid for the time per FCC rules. But with businesses shuttered, events canceled and social distancing, many advertisers can no longer use the commercial time they have already bought from TV and radio stations and are instead donating it to use for public service announcements. 

Those PSAs display the name of the CDC or other public health authority, not the original ad time purchaser, so could run afoul of the rule that require broadcasters to disclose who bought the time. 

The FCC has the discretion to waive the requirement if it thinks that would be in the public interest. The Media Bureau said that was the case. "The use of such donated advertising time could allow for the broadcast of numerous additional PSAs to the community during this national emergency and provide life-saving information to the public," it said at the time of the first waiver.