FCC OKs Tornado Relief Fundraising; NRB Again Presses for Rule Change

fcc-logo_white-on-dark-blue.jpgIn the wake of the recent devastation caused by the top-of-the-scale EF5 tornado to and around Moore, OK, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has issued a call to facilitate relief.

The FCC Media Bureau released a statement Wednesday, May 22, informing noncommercial educational (NCE) stations that it is prepared to help them raise money for charities aiding tornado victims by temporarily waiving rules prohibiting such third-party fundraising.

Generally, the FCC prohibits NCE stations from engaging in on-air fundraising activities on behalf of any entity other than the station itself unless they are provided a waiver by the Commission. Waivers, however, are rarely granted except in dire emergencies involving massive natural disasters, such as Hurricane Katrina, the 2010 Haiti earthquake, and Hurricane Sandy.

While NRB is encouraged by the FCC’s openness to allow NCE stations to make on-air fundraising appeals in support of Oklahoma relief efforts, Wednesday's announcement prompted the association to once again press the Commission to enable NCE stations to aid charitable causes at times other than disasters of historic proportions or magnitude.

For the past few years, NRB has spearheaded the push for a regulatory change that would allow non-commercial radio and TV stations to use up to 1% of their air-time to conduct fundraisers for third-party non-profit groups recognized under IRS code §501(c)(3).

Last year, the FCC presented a formal rule change proposal, which is now being considered for adoption. NRB has urged the Commission to quickly move the proposal into a permanent broadcasting rule.

“Noncom broadcasters should have a standing opportunity to raise funds on-air for worthy charities without having to overcome the high hurdle of obtaining FCC permission first,” noted NRB Senior Vice President & General Counsel Craig Parshall, whose memo to the FCC in October 2008 has been cited as the catalyst for the proposed rule change. “We are hopeful that the Commission will agree.”

Until the rule change is adopted, NCE stations seeking to solicit contributions from viewers or listeners for relief efforts related to the May 20 tornado will have to file an informal request for a waiver by submitting an e-mail request to Barbara Kreisman (barbara.kreisman@fcc.gov), if the request involves a television station, or to Peter Doyle (peter.doyle@fcc.gov) and Michael Wagner (michael.wagner@fcc.gov), if the request involves a radio station.

According to the FCC, the request should provide basic details of the fundraising activity, including the nature of the fundraising effort; the proposed duration of the fundraising effort; the organization(s) to which funds will be donated; and whether the fundraiser will be part of the station’s regularly scheduled pledge drive or fundraising effort.

Additional information can be requested by contacting the television or radio contacts provided above as well.

Published: May 25, 2013