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FCC Denies Noncom’s Plea to Air Ads

Agency says granting waiver ‘would eviscerate the underwriting rules’

Many noncommercial radio stations are having a tough time raising money. Yet that’s no excuse to let them air commercials, the FCC says.

The commission has told Network of Glory that it will not grant a waiver of underwriting rules to allow the Greenville, South Carolina non-com licensee to air ads.

Network of Glory has five stations: WAKP(FM), Smithboro, Ga.; WGBQ(FM), Lynchburg, Tenn.; KEJA(FM), Kale, Ark.; KJOG(FM) , Cleveland, Okla.; and KEIS(FM), York, Neb.

The licensee said in August it has “unsuccessfully applied for several grants from private foundations and governmental agencies.” The poor economy has placed a “dire financial strain” on many of these funding sources and Network of Glory told the commission it can’t maintain current operations without commercial advertising support.

Network had sought a waiver of the rule that prevents noncoms from airing ads and proposed running spots only at the top of the hour, where they wouldn’t interrupt programming. NOG also said any ad information would be included in the station’s public file.

Those seeking any kind of waiver need to plead with the facts and circumstances that warrant the action, said the agency in its decision, noting that waiver applicants face “a high hurdle, even at the starting gate.”

In general, the commission would grant a waiver of a rule if special circumstances warrant that action, if relief doesn’t undermine a policy, and if the deviation serves the public interest.

But the FCC said none of that applies here and that granting Network a waiver to air ads would undermine the point of authorizing noncommercial stations.

“Many NCE licensees face similar circumstances, and allowing NCE licensees to air advertising simply because they face difficulty in obtaining grants and donations would eviscerate the underwriting rules,” stated Audio Division Chief Peter Doyle in the Media Bureau’s decision.