The Federal Communications Commission’s (“FCC”) Media Bureau announced today that from now until April 30, 2020, full power and Class A TV stations may pre-empt children’s television programming to broadcast live or same-day, recorded community events to enable the public to view those events without attending in person, in furtherance of the “social distancing” advocated by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention to limit the spread of COVID-19.
Normally, when a children’s program is pre-empted, the pre-empted episode must be rescheduled within seven days, and the station must announce on the air when the episode will air. Otherwise, while pre-emption is not forbidden, the pre-empted episode will not count toward the annual children’s programming requirement.
Under the waiver, while rescheduling is encouraged, an episode pre-empted for a qualifying local program may still be counted toward the three-hour weekly children’s requirement, even if it is not rescheduled. However, an on-air announcement must still be made that a children’s program was pre-empted, but the announcement need not include information about rescheduling.
A qualifying community event must be locally produced but need not be produced by the station itself, as long as the coverage is of a community event. Religious services qualify as community events.
Stations must keep records of pre-emptions and must report all pre-emptions, whether episodes are rescheduled or not, in their next annual Children’s Television Report, to be filed in January of 2021.
Should the FCC choose to extend the period of this waiver beyond April 30, we will update you.