Citing economic difficulties, the Maricopa Community College District of Arizona asked the Federal Communications Commission for a waiver to expand the range of underwriter announcements on its two radio stations, KBAQ-FM and KJZZ-FM. But the Commission has turned the request down. “Many [non-commercial educational] licensees face similar circumstances and Maricopa fails to identify any special circumstances that distinguish it from all other NCE licensees,” the FCC responds.
Specifically, the District requested a three year experimental window to provide “[f]actually accurate information concerning interest rates” from various underwriters, among them banks, credit unions, and automobile dealerships. Also: Maricopa wanted to update listeners of various special sales events and to goose up underwriter spot adjectives a bit, particularly where they have “logogram quality that is factually based, such as ‘certified,’ ‘accredited,’ ‘award-winning,’ ‘experienced,’ or ‘long-established’,” and such.
Some background: the FCC allows underwriter announcements, but sets limits. Slogans and logograms can “identify” businesses and other entities, but not “promote” them. Products and services must remain “value neutral.”
Indeed, on the FCC’s underwriting advisory page, it lists the following possible announcement as a no-no: “7.7% interest rate available now.”
The FCC response adds:
“Permitting Maricopa to enhance their underwriting announcements would undermine the statutory and regulatory purposes in authorizing NCE stations – that is, to encourage the development of a public broadcasting system that is free from extraneous influence and control. The manner in which the Commission currently permits donor and underwriter acknowledgements was established to balance the financial needs of public broadcasting stations and their obligation to provide a noncommercial service. We believe that the public interest is better served by requiring strict adherence to the underwriting Rules and policies.”
“If Maricopa wishes to petition for a change in the rule, the appropriate vehicle would be a petition for rulemaking, not a waiver request,” the Commission statement concludes.
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