Station strikes out over baseball ads


A non-profit radio station broadcast a game of a non-profit baseball team, and the two of them put together underwriting announcements hoping to defray costs of the team. Except the announcements veered into commercial message territory. The station is Cayuga County Community College’s WDWN-FM Auburn NY, and the baseball team is the Auburn Doubledays.

The complaint came from a citizen named Jim Seward, referring to a game broadcast 8/13/05. There were said to be ten specific messages that were commercial in nature. For starters, CCCC acknowledged the messages, but said they were not sold as advertisements.

Rather, each participating entity donated $100 to the team for the season to help it cover travel expenses. CCCC said it did not directly benefit at all.

And while admitting that six of the ten were clearly commercial in nature, it disputed four being characterized that way. It asked for a reduction or cancellation on that count, coupled with its general record of compliance and its inability to pay.

The messages thought to fall safely into the underwriting category still had too many descriptors, according to the FCC. Words like “specialized” and “targeted” and phrases like “meets all your banking needs” and “banking the old-fashioned way” propelled the messages into commercial territory.

It did not provide sufficient financial records (i.e. tax returns), so the inability to pay request was swept aside.

CCCC did get a $500 reduction for compliance, bringing a $2.5K liability down to only $2K.

RBR/TVBR observation: They say that no good deed goes unpunished. Here, CCCC was merely trying to help out a fellow non-profit entity in town, and now has a bank account that is $2K lighter. But the rules are the rules.