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FCC Allows Noncoms to Fundraise for Third Parties

The FCC has voted to allow noncommercial stations not funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting to use up to 1% of their airtime to conduct fundraising for third-party nonprofits. That would include noncommercial religious stations raising money for charity.

Noncommercial entities had been able to use airtime to fundraise for themselves but not third parties, unless they got a waiver on a case-by-case basis. 

The vote was unanimous, though with commissioner Mignon Clyburn concurring rather than dissenting. She signaled that was because she had concerns about its potential impact on the mission of noncoms and thought the waiver process was working.

"What I fear in upending the longstanding practice of granting waivers on a case-by-case basis, is that we are opening the floodgates to a future, where the unique nature of noncommercial educational stations could be degraded," she said.

She was also concerned that the FCC would try to circle back and raise that 1% limit. "Will we be asked one year from now to allow ten percent of total airtime for third-party fundraising? 25 percent?" she said.

Republican commissioner Michael O'Rielly signaled that might be well-placed. He said he would support possibly raising it to at least 5% at some future date. But he also warned stations "doing the Lord's work" not to abuse the privilege to line their own pockets.

Chairman Ajit Pai said that "[m]inimally relaxing our longstanding third-party fundraising restrictions will benefit the public interest by making it easier for noncommercial stations to partner with disaster relief groups, charities, and other non-profits to raise funds for worthy causes."

(Photo via Pictures of Money's FlickrImage taken on Sept. 9, 2016 and used per Creative Commons 2.0 license. The photo was cropped to fit 3x4 aspect ratio.)

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.