FCC announces procedures for waiver requests by noncommercial broadcasters.

The time has come, yet again, for broadcasters to respond to a natural catastrophe with their characteristic humanity, offering help wherever and whenever possible. As the horrific stories and images from tornado-devastated Oklahoma – and particularly the community of Moore – make their way out of the storm’s heartless swath, 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 noncommercial educational (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 2010 Haiti earthquake, the 2011 Japanese tsunami and Superstorm Sandy come to mind as ready examples. And just to be sure that we all know that the FCC views the Oklahoma tornado 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 fund-raising activity;
  • the proposed duration of the activity;
  • the organization(s) to which fund will be donated; and
  • whether the fund-raising activity will be part of the station’s regularly-scheduled pledge drive or fund-raising efforts

The informal request should then 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.