Fund-raising at a noncommercial station in rural western Virginia seems to have gone over the top beginning back in 2009. According to a complaint, the station was airing “fully produced commercials” for a buck a pop. The station has arrived at a consent decree with the FCC to settle the matter.
The first complaint about the station, WNBV(FM) in Grundy VA licensed to New Beginning World Outreach Inc., was received 4/1/09, and it referenced the dollar per announcement deal that was said to be in operation. Further complaints came in from time to time through 5/27/10.
Here’s a big part of the problem. The initial complaint included a tape of the station’s broadcast. The FCC said, “Based on these materials, it appeared that the Licensee had aired various prohibited commercial announcements. Therefore, on May 27, 2009, and October 21, 2009, the Bureau issued letters of inquiry to the Licensee, which directed the Licensee, among other things, to submit sworn written statements in response to questions relating to allegations that the Licensee had aired announcements in violation of the Underwriting Laws.”
Apparently the problems continued even after FCC intervention, although they may have been different in character. Some announcements were said to include “calls to action,” a type of content that takes them out of the realm of a permissible underwriting statement and into the realm of a paid commercial message.
As is usually the case in a consent decree, the FCC does not charge the licensee with any violations, and the licensee promises to not do it again, submit to a compliance plan and submit to reporting conditions.
It will also make a voluntary contribution to the US Treasury. In the case, the United States will be enriched by a total of $3,450, trickling in over a 16 month period at the rate of $431.50 a pop, with a total of eight payments due every second month.