Wednesday, May 9, 2012

FCC Proposes to Lift Ban on Charitable Fundraising by Noncommercial Broadcasters

The Christian Science Monitor reports that the Federal Communications Commission (“FCC”) has proposed relaxing a rule that generally prohibits noncommercial public broadcast stations from raising funds for third parties.  The existing regulatory framework is said to rest on the premise that “stations must meet their educational mission to local communities through programming, not through fundraising for other organizations.”  However, the strictures of the current regulations reportedly have occasionally been waived by the FCC – as in the case of relief efforts for the families of 9/11 victims and for the victims of Hurricanes Andrew and Katrina – and religious and other noncommercial broadcasters have shown themselves capable actors in helping meet pressing needs when given the chance to do so.  According to the story, the new proposal would permit noncommercial stations to spend as much as 1 percent of their total annual broadcast time, or approximately 88 hours per year, conducting fundraising activities on behalf of nonprofit organizations. FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski  justifies the proposal in part as follows:

Given our experience …, where the ability to raise funds for third-party non-profits has been invaluable, we question whether it remains appropriate to require noncommercial stations to seek a waiver just as emergencies are occurring. This new FCC proposal would eliminate the need for such waivers and special requests.

Noncommercial broadcasters have long served the American public by providing high quality and innovative educational, cultural, and news programming to their local communities. By changing our ban against fundraising by public or religious broadcasters, the FCC can give them a chance to deepen their relationship with their communities, and heighten awareness about disasters at home and around the world.

Genachowski further characterizes the proposal as “another step in our ongoing efforts to modernize the FCC and eliminate unnecessary regulations.”


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