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FCC Votes On Noncommercial Station Regulations

WASHINGTON—The FCC gave a hand to many noncommercial educational (NCE) stations with a pair of rotes that will ease regulatory requirements. The first vote made optional a previously mandatory requirement for volunteer officers and board members to report personal information, while the other relaxed third-party fundraising restrictions.

Revisions to the FCC’s broadcast ownership reporting forms that essentially required unique registration numbers for NCE stations’ officers and board members, most of which are often volunteers, meant they had to submit personal information like address and the last four digits of their social security number or be at risk of enforcement action by the Commission. A number of NCE broadcasters filed petitions against the changes saying that the requirement for such information would potentially limit their recruitment of volunteers. With this most recent vote, the unique registration numbers are now optional, allowing more stations to use special use registration numbers that do not require personal information on ownership forms. However, the FCC still requires NCEs to submit info on the gender, race and ethnicity of governing officers and board members.

For the fundraising restrictions, the now relaxed stance will permit noncommercial radio and television stations to air limited fundraisers for the benefit of other non-profit organizations. Previously, NCEs had to seek a waiver from the Commission to perform on-air fundraising for third parties. Now, NCEs can devote one percent of their annual airtime to third-party fundraising that qualify as non-profits without a waiver. NCEs will have to run on-air disclosures informing audiences that they are raising money for a third-party. The new rules exempt NCEs that receive funding from the Corporation of Public Broadcasting.

Both actions took place on April 20, 2017.