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US Health Department Plans to Spend on Local Media PSAs

An NAB-sponsored coronavirus PSA (Image credit: NAB)

WASHINGTON—The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has provided some details on its plans to purchase public service announcements on local broadcast media stations regarding public health as it relates to the coronavirus pandemic.

This comes in a letter from HHS to Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W. Va.), who was part of a bipartisan group—including senators Steve Daines (R-Mont.), John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), Gary Peters (D-Mich.), Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) and Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.)—that reached out in April to stress the importance of utilizing and supporting local media during COVID-19.

“Our radio and television broadcasters and rural newspapers provide local and national news, emergency alerts, educational programs and more to all corners of the United States. In many rural areas, broadcast stations are the predominant or only form of local information,” the senators wrote. “We encourage the Office of Management and Budget to work with federal agencies throughout the government to increase advertising in local newspapers and on broadcast stations in order to help ensure they are able to continue to operate throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.”

According to HHS’s response, the department is building a large campaign of purchased PSAs that will provide information as the virus evolves and the country attempts to safely reopen. The department says it intends to buy ads on both local TV and radio stations for a flat fee, not a commission.

HHS says that the administration has worked with private-sector and nonprofit partners to get public health messages out on airwaves, including providing free content to local media outlets, but it agrees that more must be done. The letter reads, “[w]e agree that local media institutions—the key sources of public health information for small- and mid-sized markets—are vital conduits for disseminating the information Americans need right now.”

A number of organizations, including NAB, have also been pushing for federal ad spending to support local broadcasters. NAB, in response to the HHS letter, said that it intends to stay in close contact with HHS and provide more detail to local broadcasters about the advertising initiative as they become available.

The full letter from HHS is available online