FCC studies charitable fund-raising by noncoms


Pile of MoneyAs we suspected, an agenda item scheduled for the April Open Meeting was removed because the matter was approved in-house. What the FCC is proposing is a rule-making to allow up to 88 hours of fund-raising for third parties annually by noncommercial stations. Your comments are welcome.

The proposal received a unanimous 8th Floor vote.

“Under longstanding FCC policy,” stated the Commission, “noncommercial educational (NCE) public broadcast stations can only conduct fundraising activities for the benefit of the station itself. Fundraising activities for third-parties is prohibited if fundraising activities conducted on-air would substantially alter or suspend regular programming. The policy reflects concerns that public stations are licensed to meet their mission of public service to local audiences through noncommercial and educational programming, not through fundraising activities for other organizations.”

The thrust of the proposal is to allow stations to solicit charitable donations following cataclysmic events such as Hurrican Katrina without have to procure an FCC waiver.

Here, from the FCC, is a summary of the proposals specifics:

* The ban on third-party fundraising remains necessary to preserve the noncommercial nature of NCE stations, or whether it would serve the public interest to grant NCE stations some flexibility to conduct fundraising on behalf of other non-profits;

* There should be any limitations on the NCE stations that may engage in third-party fundraising and how to define the class of non-profit entities that may benefit from third-party fundraising;

* Third-party fundraising should not exceed one percent of an NCE broadcaster’s total annual airtime.  A modest one-percent annual limit, which averages to almost 88 hours or almost 4 days of programming airtime, could help to ensure that unrelated non-profit fundraising does not undermine the educational programming mission of these stations;

* There should be a durational limit on each specific fundraising program or effort;

* To require NCE stations that engage in third-party fundraising to submit annual reports to the Commission on their fundraising activities, and if so, what information should be included in these reports; whether to require NCE stations to include their reports on third-party fundraising in their public files; and

* NCE stations should be required to certify in their renewal applications that they have complied with any limits on third-party fundraising.