COVID-19:  Homeland Security Letters for Broadcasters and Credentials for Indiana’s “First Response Broadcaster” Program

The National Association of Broadcasters today circulated two letters from the Department of Homeland Security’s Cyber-security and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) that should facilitate access to your studios and transmitters if/when there are government mandated closures due to COVID-19.  The first letter addresses access, the second letter addresses fuel.

Further within the context of potential closures, quarantines, and other disruptions associated with COVID-19, we wanted you to be aware of a federal law that allows broadcasters on-going access to their facilities. 42 U.S.C. § 5189e (a)(1)(A)(i) and (b) defines broadcasters as “essential service providers.”  The statute allows essential service providers access to their places of operation in order to “respond to an emergency or major disaster.”

This means that essential broadcast station personnel should be allowed access to their studios, transmitters, towers, and other places of business for purposes of staying on the air.

Broadcasters have a critical role to inform their viewers and listeners about COVID-19 and other matters of public safety.  This applies to individual stations in their local communities, as well as to stations acting as part of a statewide network.  If circumstances warrant it, individual stations must be ready to function as part of the Emergency Alert System.  To accomplish these things, we recommend that essential personnel carry station identification with them at all times.  If asked, they should say they are a broadcast employee traveling to the station, which is an essential service provider under federal law and which is required to provide EAS information to the public.  They can also display the attached letters.

Additionally, Indiana’s “First Response Broadcaster” legislation, which has been in place since 2014, allows certified staff from Indiana Radio and TV stations access to critical broadcast sites in times of emergencies impacting Indiana citizens. The legislation allows for credentialed personnel to cross police lines in designated counties, if necessary, to keep stations on-the-air during emergencies.

If your station’s engineering personnel need First Response Broadcaster credentials, please fill out the online and hard copy forms available.


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