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FCC Admonishes Noncom Over Underwriting

FCC Admonishes Noncom Over Underwriting

The FCC has issued a ruling dealing with the thorny issue of underwriting spots.
It comes in the case of WAAQ, a noncommercial station in Onsted, Mich., run by Great Lakes Community Broadcastings, having to do with underwriting messages on noncoms and translator stations. The station was admonished but the FCC issued no fine.
The commission said the station broadcast impermissible donor and underwriting ads and aired originations concerning financial support on its translator station in violation of the rules. But it cited the station’s “unblemished enforcement record” and other circumstances in issuing its ruling. The case dates to announcements made in 2001.
The FCC found that “all of the subject underwriting announcements exceed the bounds of what is permissible … even in light of the ‘good faith’ discretion afforded licensees …
“The announcements encourage or invite business patronage, make prohibited price references or depict the underwriters in a comparative and qualitative manner.”
For example, the FCC stated, announcements on behalf of an appliance store, cellular vendors and an audio center “provide price or other information concerning product discounts, rebates or warranties that encourage business patronage, and are thus specifically prohibited.”
Among other specifics, the FCC also rejected the licensee’s contention that the rules allow noncommercial translator stations to broadcast “advertising messages” that promote their for-profit sponsors.