NCE third party fundraising

In July, we wrote about the effective date of the FCC’s new rules allowing non-CPB noncommercial stations to interrupt their normal programming to raise funds for third-party charitable and non-profit organizations (we wrote here about the decision itself), for up to 1% of their total airtime. In July, we noted that the new rules on


At its April meeting, the FCC voted to allow noncommercial stations not affiliated with NPR or CPB to raise funds for third-party nonprofit organizations, even where such fundraising appeals interrupted normal programming, as long as the licensee did not devote more than 1% of its yearly airtime to such appeals. We wrote here

The FCC released the agenda for its April 20th meeting – and it includes three broadcast items.  Two deal with noncommercial broadcasters (undoing the requirement for noncommercial broadcasters to get Social Security Numbers from its board members so that they can acquire an FCC Registration Number for them – see our articles here and here on that issue – and one allowing noncommercial broadcasters to interrupt programming to raise funds for unrelated non-profit organizations).   The third deals with the UHF discount (see our summary of this proposal here).  The third-party fundraising issue has been pending at the FCC for almost 5 years, when the FCC proposed to relax its policy that prohibits noncommercial broadcasters from interrupting normal programming to raise funds for “third-party” nonprofit groups (see our article here on the proposal).  A noncommercial station can raise funds for nonprofit groups during normal program breaks in PSAs or other similar brief announcements, but under current policy, they cannot conduct a telethon or radiothon to raise funds for the Red Cross, a local charity, a religious organization or even for the football team or orchestra at a college or university that owns a noncommercial broadcast station.

The FCC yesterday released its proposed order that would change the current policy.  It would allow a noncommercial station to raise funds for another non-profit entity, but only for 1% of its airtime – about 87 hours a year.  However, this relaxation would be limited to noncommercial stations that do not receive CPB funding, as many PBS and NPR stations opposed the change fearing that they would be deluged by requests for funding from local nonprofits (including, for university licensees, from their licensees themselves for non-station related financial needs).  It was feared that such campaigns could undermine the noncommercial service provided by these stations, and could interfere with the station’s own fundraising.
Continue Reading FCC Proposes to Adopt Rules Allowing Fundraising for Third-Party Nonprofit Organizations By Non-CPB Noncommercial Stations

Under FCC policies, stations licensed as noncommercial educational (NCE) stations cannot conduct fundraising for parties other than the station licensee if such fundraising will disrupt the normal program schedule of the station.  So the Jerry Lewis Telethon and similar charitable programming efforts cannot be conducted by noncommercial stations without a waiver from the FCC.  In recent

The earthquake in Haiti has caused many to look for ways to help – including broadcasters.  While many broadcasters are already pitching in to do their part to aide relief effortsnoncommercial broadcasters are, in some cases, limited in what they can do.  Noncommercial stations cannot raise funds, even for other noncommercial groups, if that fundraising "substantially alters or suspends regular programming" of the station.  Under these rules, NCE ("Noncommercial educational) stations are thus forbidden to hold a telethon or other pledge drive that suspends normal programming where the proceeds would go to a third party – even a nonprofit third party group.  Thus, recognizing the magnitude of the tragedy in Haiti, the FCC has agreed to grant liberal waivers of these policies, issuing a public notice announcing that NCE stations wishing to conduct such efforts can simply file an electronic request, by email, with certain supervisors in the Media Bureau’s Audio and Video divisions, setting out the nature of the programming, its length, and the beneficiary.

We obviously applaud the FCC’s rapid response on this issue.  But we note that it is interesting that the Public Notice states that applicants for one of these waivers also must state whether the special fund-raising effort is part of the station’s normal fundraising, or if it is a separate program. The public notice does not mention that noncommercial stations can make fundraising appeals for third parties under the current FCC policies, as long as those appeals do not suspend or interfere with normal station programming.  It would seem to me that such appeals would permit a DJ on an NCE station, in a normal programming break, to urge listeners to contribute to the Red Cross or some other charity, or for a regularly scheduled talk show on a station to feature a discussion of the situation in Haiti and of how people can assist with disaster relief, without needing any specific approval of the FCC.  The key to whether a waiver of the FCC policies is necessary is whether there is a substantial alteration or suspension of the normal programming of the station.


Continue Reading FCC Permits Noncommercial Stations to Raise Funds For Haitian Relief – The Limits of Third Party Fundraising By NCE Stations