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Pai Calls for Retrans Calm Amid Coronavirus Storm

FCC chairman Ajit Pai has called on broadcasters and MVPDs to avoid retrans related service disruptions during the coronavirus pandemic, when remotely is how everyone is expected to connect. 

Related: White House, Ad Council Working on PSAs 

That came on a call with broadcasters and their trade associations Monday (March 16), in which he thanked them for their efforts to educate the public about the coronavirus pandemic, but also urged them to keep the signals flowing and signaled that there could be issues with the remaining post-incentive auction repack. 

"[Chairman Pai] asked broadcasters to work with cable and satellite operators to avoid service disruptions during the next 60 days, such as by agreeing, if necessary, to short-term extensions to expiring retransmission consent agreements," said the FCC of the chairman's call. 

With the last stations facing a midyear deadline for their post-incentive auction repack, Pai told them on the call that the pandemic would likely have an impact on the repack and the FCC would provide broadcasters with "appropriate flexibility." 

Pai called on broadcasters to emphasize the "social distancing" message. 

"Going forward, I urged them to air public service announcements featuring prominent entertainment and sports personalities, and local news anchors asking Americans to practice the social distancing that is needed to combat this pandemic," he said. "We need this vital message to be delivered by Americans who are familiar to different segments of our society, and broadcasters are ideally situated to the task.”  

Pai specifically cited the National Association of Broadcasters for launching its Coronavirus Response Toolkit last week, which included a PSA campaign. 

“ACA Connects again applauds FCC Chairman Ajit Pai for his leadership at a time when the country continues to face a national emergency caused by the coronavirus pandemic. We endorse his call for broadcasters to work with cable and satellite operators to prevent service disruptions during this crisis," said ACA Connects president Matt Polka. "We will ask our members to respect this quiet period and expect that they will do so. During this crisis, more than ever, the viewing public must come first."


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.