Mar 18, 2020 - Economy & Business

White House teams with Ad Council, media outlets on coronavirus PSAs

Photo: Alex Wong / Staff/Getty Images

The White House is working with the Ad Council, a nonprofit that produces public services announcements (PSAs), and many of the country's top TV and radio networks to develop a set of coronavirus-related PSAs, it announced Wednesday.

Why it matters: The Trump administration is pulling out all stops to make sure the public is aware of safety measures and precautions around the novel coronavirus. TV ads are particularly important to this effort, given that most people are stuck at home and, presumably, watching more television.

Details: All PSAs will run during airtime that will be donated by the media and coordinated through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Department of Health and Human Services, the White House said. All of the spots will direct audiences to visit

  • NBCUniversal, which includes cable networks like Bravo, MSNBC, CNBC and others, as well as broadcasters including NBC and Telemundo, will also produce TV and digital spots in English and Spanish.
  • ViacomCBS will do the same across its portfolio of brands, which includes CBS, MTV, VH1, Comedy Central and others. Its children's channel, Nickelodeon, will also develop service content on appropriate topics for kids, such as handwashing.
  • iHeartMedia will run audio PSAs across its network of radio stations.
  • ABC/Walt Disney Television will promote messaging for parents and families across its platforms, which include Disney Channel, ABC, ESPN and more.

The PSAs will cover topics such as social distancing, personal hygiene and mental health.

Included in the PSAs will be first lady Melania Trump, Surgeon General Jerome Adams, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Anthony Fauci, response coordinator for the White House Coronavirus Task Force Deborah Birx and other administration officials.

Between the lines: Federal Communications Commission chair Ajit Pai last week urged broadcasters to air public service announcements featuring prominent personalities.

  • The National Association of Broadcasters, which represents hundreds of local stations, started airing a COVID-19 campaign last week.
  • Sources say that NAB President and CEO Gordon Smith was on call with the participating TV networks, Vice President Mike Pence and others about this campaign.

Be smart: The White House says the campaign will benefit high-risk populations, which tend to be the elderly. Television, in particular, is a good medium for reaching that demographic.

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