FCC asks for input on allowing third-party fundraising on noncom stations

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As anticipated, the FCC today (April 26) invited public comment on allowing noncommercial educational (NCE) broadcasters to spend a small percentage of their total annual broadcast time to conduct on-air fundraising activities for other nonprofits.

The Notice of Proposed Rulemaking is asking for input on whether the ban on third-party fundraising remains necessary to preserve the noncommercial nature of NCE stations; if there should be limitations on the stations that engage in the third-party fundraising; whether fundraising should not exceed 1 percent (about 88 hours) of a broadcaster’s total annual airtime; if there should be a durational limit on each specific fundraising program; if participating stations should submit annual reports to the FCC on their fundraising activities and, if so, what information; and whether participating stations should be required to certify in renewal applications that they have complied with any limits on third-party fundraising.

Previously, the FCC granted waivers of the policy to permit noncom stations to raise funds in support of relief efforts for catastrophic events, such as Hurricane Katrina, the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the January 2010 earthquake in Haiti, and the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Japan.

“Given our experience in these and other cases, where the ability to raise funds for third-party nonprofits has been invaluable, we question whether it remains appropriate to require noncommercial stations to seek a waiver just as emergencies are occurring,” FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski said in a statement.

“This action reflects an effort to balance our continued interest in preserving the core educational mission of noncommercial stations with our goal of providing these stations additional flexibility to support nonprofits of their choosing,” he added.