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FCC: Station Coronavirus Coverage Sharing is Exempt from Reporting Rules

The FCC said that ad hoc news sharing agreements between TV stations during the coronavirus pandemic don't have to drawn up and placed in stations' online public files. 

"The Commission recognizes that broadcasters play an essential role in helping Americans stay safe and informed during the COVID-19 outbreak," the commission said.  

National Association of Broadcasters president Gordon Smith pointed out in a C-SPAN interview that competitors have come together to share resources to relay critical information to their communities. 

Related: Covid-19, the Story of a Lifetime

The FCC has a public fling requirement for shared services agreements among TV stations, but also exemptions for on-the-fly arrangements during breaking news coverage. 

The pandemic is an ongoing story, but also essentially a rolling breaking news story as well, so the FCC just wanted to clarify that those ongoing coverage arrangements were exempt from the reporting requirement. 

"As a result of the fluid and challenging nature of covering the outbreak of respiratory illness caused by a novel coronavirus (COVID-19), we understand that broadcast stations may be engaging in the sharing of news and news gathering resources in order to cover the emergency news event," the FCC said. Those fall "squarely" within the exemption, the FCC said. 

But it also advised that if such arrangements extended "after the urgency has abated," they will need to be in writing and in public files.

John Eggerton
John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.