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FCC Proposes Allowing Noncom Third-Party Fundraising

The FCC made it official Thursday, announcing the commissioners had voted unanimously to propose allowing noncommercial stations to use about 1% of their annual airtime -- or about 88 hours per year -- for fundraising for third-party nonprofits in their communities or "around the world."

That could include fundraising for homeless shelters down the street, or for earthquake victims a world away.

Religious broadcasters had asked for more fundraising flexibility, and loosening of the third-party restriction had also been a recommendation of the FCC's report on the information needs of communities, which had suggested that "having local charities on the air can be a useful way of informing residents about problems in their communities," as well as helping "meet their public service or religious missions."

"The Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on whether:

  • The ban on third-party fundraising remains necessary to preserve the noncommercial nature of NCE stations, or whether it would serve the public interest to grant NCE stations some flexibility to conduct fundraising on behalf of other non-profits;
  • There should be any limitations on the NCE stations that may engage in third-party fundraising and how to define the class of non-profit entities that may benefit from third-party fundraising;
  • Third-party fundraising should not exceed one percent of an NCE broadcaster's total annual airtime.  A modest one-percent annual limit, which averages to almost 88 hours or almost 4 days of programming airtime, could help to ensure that unrelated non-profit fundraising does not undermine the educational programming mission of these stations;
  • There should be a durational limit on each specific fundraising program or effort;  
  • To require NCE stations that engage in third-party fundraising to submit annual reports to the Commission on their fundraising activities, and if so, what information should be included in these reports; whether to require NCE stations to include their reports on third-party fundraising in their public files; and
  • NCE stations should be required to certify in their renewal applications that they have complied with any limits on third-party fundraising."