FCC agrees to decree with low power FM


If you ever hear a commercial on an LPFM, then something is wrong, since by design and by license the facilities are required to operate on a non-commercial basis. They are allowed to run underwriting acknowledgements, as is any other non-com, but one was alleged to have acknowledgements that crossed the line into the realm of advertising.

The station is WLZD-FM Hazard KY, licensed to Hazard Community Broadcasting. It is admitting no wrong-doing, but at the same time is undertaking a compliance plan including training sessions on the announcements with staff, submitting to FCC reporting conditions, and making a voluntary $7K contribution to the US Treasury.

Underwriting announcements are a key item in a noncom’s financial tool belt to induce contributions from the business community. But the benefit to the contributing company may only be in the accumulation of public goodwill from the station’s loyal audience for helping the station do its job. It cannot in any way be a to glorify the contributing business.

As the FCC puts it, “Although contributors of funds to such stations may receive on-air acknowledgements of their support, the Commission has held that such acknowledgements may be made for identification purposes only, and should not promote the contributors’ products, services, or businesses. Specifically, such announcements may not contain comparative or qualitative descriptions, price information, calls to action, or inducements to buy, sell, rent or lease. At the same time, however, the Commission has acknowledged that it is at times difficult to distinguish between language that promotes versus that which merely identifies the underwriter and is consistent with the Commission’s Rules and decisions establishing compliant underwriting announcements.  Consequently, the Commission expects licensees to exercise reasonable, ‘good faith’ judgment in this area, and affords some latitude to the judgments of licensees who do so.”

Rather the go back and forth battling over the gray area in dispute in this matter, both the FCC and WLZD-LP decided to save time and resources and use the middle route to resolution provided by the consent decree mechanism.