Pai Commends Radio, TV For Coronavirus Response … and DISH Deals


The head of the RTDNA isn’t the only one saluting America’s broadcast journalists in a time of crisis and growing anxiety across the U.S.

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai on Monday held a conference call yesterday with TV and radio broadcasters, along with representatives from broadcaster trade associations, to thank broadcasters for their efforts to educate the American people about the coronavirus pandemic and discuss additional ways that broadcasters can help Americans stay safe and informed during the coronavirus outbreak.

“I’m grateful for the steps that broadcasters are taking to inform the American people about this pandemic and to educate them about the steps they can take to protect themselves and slow the spread of the virus,” said Chairman Pai.  “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.  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.”

New programming includes Coronavirus: Un País en Alerta on Telemundo, hosted by anchor Julio Vaqueiro, airing at 11:35pm Eastern starting Tuesday (3/17); and Salem Radio Network‘s hour-long special Coronavirus Pandemic: An SRN News Special Report, airing Wednesday at 6pm across most SRN affiliates. The Salem program is hosted by Hugh Hewitt and Dr. Sebastian Gorka.

“The country has been shaken by the fast changing news events of this important story, and SRN is uniquely qualified to carry out this task with a live one-hour special report,” said SRN SVP Phil Boyce. “We’ll rely on the expert commentary of both Gorka and Hewitt, with SRN News coverage from Greg Clugston at the White House.”

On Monday’s call, Pai singled out the NAB for making available a “Coronavirus Response Toolkit” to radio and television stations and sharing coronavirus-related public service announcements with them.

He also thanked Spanish-language broadcasters for conveying important information to Latino consumers.

Importantly, Pai requested that broadcasters 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.

It took a pandemic to put a stop to a retransmission consent dispute that, by law, had blocked Cox Media Group stations from reaching DISH customers in 10 DMAs. The markets are those comprising what was Brian Brady’s Northwest Broadcasting, now a part of Cox’s “Terrier” assets.

That wasn’t the only short-term deal to come to fruition on March 15.

DISH Network also agreed to temporarily restore channels owned by Mission Broadcasting, Marshall Broadcasting Group, and White Knight Broadcasting through Monday, April 13.

The stations are operated by Nexstar Media Group via a SSA.

“DISH is committed to ensuring that our customers have access to critical local news coverage regarding COVID-19 in their community,” said DISH SVP/Programming Andy LeCuyer. “Our customers always come first, and restoring these channels is one more step we’ve taken to help them get through this challenging time.”

Here is the list of stations restored through March and April of 2020:

Station Market Affiliate Channel
WVLA Baton Rouge LA NBC 33
KFXK Tyler-Longview TX FOX 51
KLJB Davenport-Rock Island-Moline IA FOX 18
KPEJ Odessa-Midland TX FOX 24
KMSS Shreveport LA FOX 33
KRBC Abilene-Sweetwater TX NBC 9
KCIT Amarillo TX FOX 14
KCPN Amarillo TX MNT 33
WVNY Bennington County VT ABC 22
KHMT Billings MT FOX 4
WVNY Burlington-Plattsburgh VT ABC 22
WTVW Evansville IN CW 7
KFQX Grand Junction-Montrose CO FOX 4
KODE Joplin MO-Pittsburg KS ABC 12
KASN Little Rock-Pine Bluff AR CW 38
KLRT Little Rock-Pine Bluff AR FOX 16
KAMC Lubbock TX ABC 28
KTVE Monroe LA-El Dorado AR NBC 10
WTVO Rockford IL ABC 17
KSAN San Angelo TX NBC 3
KOLR Springfield MO CBS 10
WAWV Terre Haute IN ABC 20
WUTR Utica NY ABC 20
KJBO Wichita Falls-Lawton TX MNT 35
KJTL Wichita Falls-Lawton TX FOX 18
WYOU Wilkes Barre-Scranton PA CBS 22
WVNY Windham County VT (Boston Plus) ABC 22



Pai also acknowledged that the coronavirus pandemic would likely have an impact on the post-incentive auction repack and stated that the Commission would provide broadcasters with appropriate flexibility to address disruptions, a step that the Commission took Tuesday morning.

At the same time, broadcasters offered ideas for how the FCC could help them address operational challenges during the pandemic.