FCC announces procedures for waiver requests by noncommercial broadcasters

Broadcasters have historically responded to catastrophes with incredible humanity, offering help wherever and whenever possible.  And the devastation that Superstorm Sandy wreaked on the eastern seaboard – and particularly the Jersey Shore and NYC – has provided yet another unfortunate opportunity for that humanity to manifest itself again. As the horrific stories and images roll in, noncommercial educational (NCE) broadcast stations may want to undertake fund-raising efforts to support relief efforts. The FCC clearly does not want to do anything to discourage such laudable humanitarian impulses. 

However, rules are rules – and the Commission’s rules (Sections 73.503(d) for radio and 73.621(e) for TV) generally prohibit NCE broadcasters from engaging in on-air fund-raising activities on behalf of anybody but the station itself.

Not to worry. The Commission has historically waived that prohibition following “disasters of particular uniqueness or magnitude” – Hurricane Katrina, the 2004 Southeast Asia earthquake/tsunami, the 2010 Haiti earthquake and the 2011 Japanese earthquake/tsunami come to mind as ready examples. And just to be sure that we all know that the FCC views Sandy to be in the same league, the Commission has issued a public notice laying out the procedures by which NCE licensees may request waivers so that they can engage in fund-raising for relief efforts.

Stations seeking such waivers should prepare an informal request providing the following basic details of their fund-raising activity:

  • 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 licensee’s regularly scheduled pledge drive or fundraising effort.

Of course, the public notice does not guarantee that such requests will automatically be granted, but it’s a very good bet that the Media Bureau will be strongly inclined to bless Sandy-related fund-raising efforts.

These informal requests should be emailed to the FCC.  NCE television licensees should address their requests to Barbara Kreisman (barbara.kreisman@fcc.gov). NCE radio licensees should address their requests to Peter Doyle (peter.doyle@fcc.gov) and Michael Wagner (michael.wagner@fcc.gov). Those points of contact are also available for any particular questions you might have about such things.