FCC Affirms Rejection Of Noncomm's Proposal To Test Looser Underwriting Restrictions
November 25, 2014 at 4:05 AM (PT)
The FCC has affirmed its denial of MARICOPA COMMUNITY COLLEGE DISTRICT's proposal to test the effects of using "prohibited material" in underwriting spots on noncommercial News-Talk KJZZ and Classical KBAQ/PHOENIX. The stations' request for a three-year "controlled and limited experiment" or waiver to test allowing "(1) interest rates; (2) sales, discounts, and special events; and (3) qualitative adjectives based in fact" in the noncommercial stations' underwriting announcements was rejected in MAY, a denial affirmed by the full Commission in the present action.
The Media Bureau's rejection asserted that experimental authority is meant for technical experiments, not programming. The present action said that "the Commission lacks authority to provide the relief which MARICOPA seeks" and that "While MARICOPA downplays the magnitude of the underwriting enhancements it proposes to air, saying that the material cannot “be deemed true commercial advertising” because it merely “pushes the envelope slightly,” we find nevertheless that MARICOPA’s proposal would cross the line established in the statute."
Commissioner AJIT PAI's concurrence agreed with the result but expressed concern that the Commission should not have gone further and found that the kind of underwriting announcements proposed by MARICOPA would violate the Communications Act, noting that some of the underwriting announcements on PBS appear to violate the statue under that standard. PAI cites one VIKING RIVER CRUISES underwriting announcement on PBS that uses descriptions that the present decision appears to prohibit, like "modern river cruise vessel(s)" that offer to have the viewers “transported ...to a another world, a world of dramatic landscapes, majestic castles and remarkable characters.”