This week FCC Chairman Ajit Pai circulated to his fellow commissioners a draft order that would finalize an NRB-inspired idea to aid charitable activity. In a blog post announcing the April Open Meeting agenda, Pai said the commission would take up a proposal allowing noncommercial broadcasters the option of using up to 1 percent of their annual on-air time to fundraise for third-party nonprofit organizations. He said, “I believe that we should make it easier for stations to engage in this type of activity so long as it doesn’t compromise their noncommercial nature.”
NRB has long supported such a reform. Currently, noncommercial (NCE) broadcast stations are prohibited from on-air fundraising for other nonprofit organizations unless they are provided a waiver by the Commission. The custom of the Commission has been to issue waivers only after emergency situations, and in those times the power of stations to aid in charitable fundraising has been very evident.
In 2011, the FCC’s Information Needs of Communities Report embraced NRB’s suggestion that interested noncommercial stations could serve not only in disaster scenarios, but also in efforts to ameliorate everyday struggles. Then-Chairman Julius Genachowski (D), with the concurrence of Commissioner Mignon Clyburn (D) and former Commissioner Robert McDowell (R), followed up by initiating a proceeding to allow just that, and NRB filed a detailed comment and reply comment in support.
Responding to this week’s announcement, Dr. Jerry A. Johnson, NRB President & CEO, said, “Educating listeners and viewers about critical societal needs and aiding them to help charitable groups address those needs is most definitely in the public interest. I thank Chairman Pai for leading the Commission to at long last take action on this nonpartisan, commonsense regulatory reform, which NRB has long advocated.”
Johnson added, “Chairman Pai has done well right out of the gate to build bipartisan consensus around commonsense efforts to lift unnecessary burdens on the public interest. NRB has long urged the FCC to take this reasonable step for noncommercial stations, and I look forward with hope to its adoption.”
This item, which highlights and adopts many NRB suggestions, is slated to be considered at the FCC Open Meeting on April 20. More information about the meeting, including the draft order, is available here.
By Aaron Mercer, Vice President of Government Relations
Published: March 31, 2017