Federal Communications Commission

Noncommercial and Public Media Category

From the Public Comments: Should the FCC Lift Restrictions on Underwriting for Religious Broadcasters?

Posted June 11th, 2010 by Andrew Kaplan - Special Assistant to the Future of Media project

The National Religious Broadcasters (NRB) recently wrote in their public comment [filed February 18, 2010] that while they generally are skeptical of government involvement in media, there are two practical policies in which the FCC could “fertilize” the conditions surrounding the media without actually subsidizing it.
The NRB first proposes that the FCC to change its rule and allow fundraising for “third party, non-profit charities by non-commercial broadcast stations.” Currently, noncommercial stations are prohibited from substantially altering or suspending regular programming to fundraise for any entity other than itself. The NRB suggests permitting “NCE licensees to alter or suspend up to 1% of its annual broadcasting time for the purpose of raising funds for third-party, non-profit organizations recognized under section 50 I 1(3) of the I.R.S. code.”
Secondly, NRB urges the Commission to lift restrictions on programming sponsorships and underwriting for NCE stations that do not receive federal money, thus allowing more competition with stations affiliated with the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.
The NRB notes that F.C.C. rules “permit sponsorship content that merely ‘identifies’ the
sponsor in a given broadcast spot, but prohibits any that ‘promotes’ a sponsor.” NRB seeks a new rule “which makes sponsorship and underwriting regulations more flexible, provided that it would not substantially alter the non-commercial nature of NCE licensees nor cause them to morph into a commercial model.”
Do you agree with these suggestions made? Why or why not?

Posted in Public Notices Noncommercial and Public Media

From the Public Comments: Should There Be Tougher Standards for Public Media?

Posted May 25th, 2010 by Andrew Kaplan - Special Assistant to the Future of Media project

The organization American Public Media (APM) recently wrote in their public comment that one critical way to help journalism is to establish tougher standards for public media organizations. APM believes that the public media system in the U.S. has been allowed to underperform for many years without consequences, and this has made it largely ineffective as compared to its international peers or measured against its mission.

 The following is from the public comment filed by American Public Media on May 7, 2010. Do you agree with the suggestions made? Which actions do you think would be most effective?
 In order to create a truly relevant and robust public media in American, the FCC
and Corporation for Public Broadcasting (“CPB”) must systematically raise the bar for
public media organizations. We can no longer afford to give away valuable spectrum
resources and public funding to organizations simply because they qualify. Instead, the
FCC and CPB should create a high standard for audience engagement and local content
origination for all public media organizations that receive federal funding or are licensed
The FCC should act in concert with the CPB on the following actions:
  • Initiate a new license renewal process for CPB-funded public media organizations that requires a demonstration of significant public service and locally originated content, moderated by market size.
  • Require an accounting illustrating that all media related revenue be invested in an audited public media entity. Eliminate the practice of some colleges and parent companies of charging "overhead" fees that cream off essential public media funding for other purposes.
  • Consider stopping the NCE waiver for main studios beyond some reasonable distance from a headquarters station (for example, within a state or within a certain radius) to encourage regional service and more local origination and discourage “national stations”. The national station concept can be accomplished by satellite radio. Terrestrial radio should not be comprised of legions of transmitters fed by satellite without local studios.
  • Support the development of public interest broadband capacity connecting public media centers and their audiences at affordable cost to the producers. These new modes of distribution will require subsidy if they are going to be used at a significant scale by public media.
  • Require a community board or advisory board for all CPB-funded public media organizations to connect it with community leadership. The current standard, which requires an advisory board for a community licensee but not for a public university, was a legislative error.
  • The CPB NCE-FM standards that call for broadcasting eighteen hours a day, two full time employees and two full time equivalents paid at least minimum wage as a condition of funding are actually lower in some ways than those that were set in 1970. These standards assume a station model that predates our current definition of a large and established public media.These need to be re-evaluated as standards of performance appropriate to communities of various sizes.
  • Consider the concept of a rigorous accreditation process, similar to the college and university validation process, to measure impact and continued eligibility for CPB funding.
  • Encourage models that reduce overhead and duplication and provide incentives for operational consolidation.

Posted in Public Notices Noncommercial and Public Media
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How to Participate in FCC Future of Media Workshop on April 30

Posted April 28th, 2010 by Andrew Kaplan - Special Assistant to the Future of Media project

 The FCC is holding its second Future of Media workshop on Friday, April 30 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on the topic: “Public and Other Noncommercial Media in the Digital Era.”

The workshop will focus on several key issues, including:

-- The possibilities for greater collaboration among noncommercial media entities such as public broadcasters, PEG channels, noncommercial web-based outlets, and other new media entities;

-- The role of public and other noncommercial media in serving the information needs of the underserved, including minorities, children, the disabled, and the economically disadvantaged;

-- Evolving business and organizational structures of public and other noncommercial media entities and the ways these are impacted by government policy;

 -- Innovative uses of social media, gaming, Internet applications, citizen journalism, mobile technologies, and other technological and organizational innovations; 

-- The possibilities for new kinds of noncommercial media networks and associated funding models.

The workshop will be held in the Commission Meeting Room, Room TW-C305, at the FCC headquarters on 445 12th Street, SW, Washington, DC. The public is encouraged to attend.   You can also participate in the workshop by viewing the FCC Live web page at www.fcc.gov/live. Submit questions to the panelists via e-mail (futureofmedia@fcc.gov) or Twitter using #FOMwkshop.   View the press release and agenda (.pdf)

Posted in Workshops Ideas and Debates Information Needs of Communities Noncommercial and Public Media

Comment on: Noncommercial and Public Media

Posted January 20th, 2010 by William Freedman - Associate Bureau Chief, Media Bureau

The Future of Media project encourages comments and suggestions on the key questions about the changing media landscape.  This post includes questions about non-commercial media, including non-profit websites, public TV and radio.  (The full public notice can be found here.) 
21.   With regard to nationally-oriented noncommercial television and radio (including public broadcasting stations), what have been the trends and what is the current state of affairs regarding news staffing and coverage (international, national, and local)? 
22.   For local noncommercial television and radio stations, what have been the trends for staffing, the amount of local news and information aired, audience ratings for such programming and local station financial health? If there have been news staff contractions, what type of programming has been cut back or changed? What have been the trends in funding from governmental, private sources and viewer/listener donations? What has been the role of government regulation? What has been the impact of competition for audience from the Internet or other information sources? How are public broadcasters using the Internet, mobile applications, their multicast channels/additional program streams, or other new technologies to provide local news and information? How are they collaborating with non-broadcasters? How have these changes affected the availability of informational and educational programming for children and other informational and educational material?
23.   In general, how, if at all, should noncommercial television and radio licensees change to meet the challenges and opportunities of the digital era? How does the role of public media differ from that of commercial media? If there is a greater role for public media in meeting the information needs of local communities, how should that be financed? What role, if any, should government subsidies play? Should legal requirements regarding underwriting and advertising be changed?
24.   Should the Public Broadcasting Act be amended to restructure and augment investments in noncommercial media? Are the experiences of other countries instructive on this question?   
25.    What should be the role of non-profit media that are not noncommercial broadcast licensees (for instance, non-profit websites, news services, mobile applications, or reporting-oriented organizations)? What public policy changes (including changes to the tax law, corporate law, or rules about advertising) could improve the viability of non-profit models? How should noncommercial television and radio licensees work with independent non-profit media entities to improve efficiency and content quality? What changes in law or practice could encourage better collaboration among non-profit media?
... Read More.

Posted in Public Notices Ideas and Debates Noncommercial and Public Media
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