On April 20, 2017, the FCC announced two new developments for NCE stations. First, the FCC stated that it will no longer require the officers and board members of NCE stations to obtain FCC registration numbers (“FRNs”), a process which requires individuals to disclose personal information such as social security numbers. NCE station officers and board members may instead opt to use “special use” FRNs (which do not require disclosing personal information to the Commission) when filing their ownership reports. The Commission will continue to require NCE stations to submit the gender, race, and ethnicity of their officers and board members.
Second, the Commission announced that it will permit NCE stations to conduct on-air fundraising activities for the benefit of third-party non-profit organizations. However, the third-party organizations for whom the NCE stations conduct on-air fundraising must be 501(c)(3) tax exempt, and CPB-funded stations will remain prohibited from conducting on-air fundraising. Eligible NCE stations will be able to accept reimbursement for expenses incurred in producing third-party programming and for the station’s operating costs in connection with the broadcast of the fundraising program.
The Commission implemented a cap on the amount of airtime that NCE stations may allocate to fundraising. Specifically, NCE stations may spend up to 1% of their annual airtime conducting third-party fundraising, which equates to 88 hours annually/1.7 hours per week for stations on-air 24 hours a day. NCE stations may obtain a waiver of this cap, but only for specific disasters and catastrophic events such as hurricanes and other natural disasters.
NCE stations airing fundraising programs must air audience disclosures that clearly state that the fundraiser is not for the benefit of the station itself and that identify the non-profit organization for which the fundraiser is being conducted. These disclosures must air at the beginning and the end of the fundraising program and at least once during each hour of the program. Furthermore, NCE stations that broadcast fundraising must place documentation in their public files on a quarterly basis reporting:
- the date, time, and duration of the fundraiser;
- the type of fundraising activity;
- the name of the non-profit organization benefited by the fundraiser;
- a brief description of the specific cause or project supported by the fundraiser; and
- the total funds raised.
The new rules will not go into effect immediately. Both must first go to the Office of Management and Budget for review under the Paperwork Reduction Act. Once OMB approves them, the FCC will announce the effective dates for each in Federal Register notice.