Noncom groups file comments on FCC’s third-party fundraising proposal

By Dru Sefton

NPR, PBS and the Association of Public Television Stations are among broadcast organizations weighing in with the FCC on its April proposal for a change in policy to allow pubcasters to raise money for charities and other nonprofits on the air without first obtaining a waiver. All three are opposed.

Other pubcasters filing comments include New England Public Radio and the University Station Alliance, which also oppose the change, and North Carolina’s UNC-TV, which “generally supports” the change. Several religious organizations, including the National Religious Broadcasters, also back the proposal.

Joint comments from PBS and APTS, filed Monday (July 23), urge the FCC to limit any rule change to licensees that do not receive a CPB community service grant. “CPB-qualified stations have a unique statutory mission of public service,” the filing said, “that could be undermined by a rule change allowing on-air interruptions to fundraise for third parties outside of the waiver process.” That waiver process “has worked satisfactorily for decades,” it added. Public TV stations “have a mission to serve all segments of a community, specifically those that are less influential, rather than select third-party organizations.”

NPR’s comments said that changing the rules “raises serious concerns and may negatively impact stations’ abilities to serve their communities.” Removing the ban “would create the potential for stations to be inundated with requests from local nonprofits, jeopardizing relationships with potential programming partners and imposing an administrative burden on station staff.” The FCC’s proposed change “may also undermine stations’ ability to raise funds from their members, who are vital to stations’ economic well-being.”

In supporting the proposed change, UNC-TV noted it believes that the FCC “should leave to individual [noncommercial educational] stations the decisions concerning whether or not a station participates in this activity at all, how much of its programming time will be allotted to this activity in specific situations and in the aggregate, and whether or not it merely produces and airs fundraising programs and activities or also collects and remits funds deriving from such programming and activities.”

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