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FCC Proposes Easing Fundraising Rules for Noncomms

Rule change would make it easier for public broadcasters to raise money for third-parties

The FCC dropped an item from its agenda for Friday’s public meeting that proposed a way for noncommercial broadcasters to raise money for third parties. Such a move usually means commissioners have completed voting on an item before the public meeting.

Religious and public radio operators have wanted the rules on this issue relaxed for some time, so they don’t need to apply for a waiver after each natural disaster.

For example, the commission granted waivers to allow third-party fundraising by noncommercial operators following Hurricane Katrina, the earthquake in Haiti and more recently, the Japanese tsunami.

Currently, noncomms can only fundraise for their own stations. Raising money for third parties is prohibited if it means on-air pitches would drastically change or suspend regular programming.

Now, the agency has proposed allowing pubcasters to spend up to 1% of their total fundraising time — about 88 hours a year — to conduct on-air fundraising activities for charities and other nonprofits. This proposal is a recommendation of The Information Needs of Communities report, which was released in June 2011.

This proposal would eliminate the need for noncomms to seek a waiver just as emergencies are occurring.

The FCC has invited public comments on the proposal, asking, among other things, whether the current third-party fundraising ban is necessary to preserve the noncommercial nature of public radio stations, whether there should still be limits on third-party fundraising and whether the public radio stations or the charities themselves should submit reports to the commission on the activities.

Comments are due to MB Docket 12-43.