What’s acceptable wording and what’s not in an underwriting message?
Credit copy is the lifeblood of underwriting. Federal law mandates that public media underwriters be identified on-air, and that the description of their products and services remain non-promotional. These announcements, and the Halo Effect that these underwriters enjoy, are the main reasons underwriters choose to make public media part of their advertising portfolio.
Over the past five years, the FCC has issued two fines for violations of its underwriting rules, but has entered into eight consent decrees with noncommercial stations accused of violating those rules. A recent Consent Decree with low power FM station WQAZ-LP shows why consent decrees have displaced forfeitures (FCC-speech for “fines”) as a way of resolving underwriting complaints, but also why consent decrees are difficult to translate into guidance for future compliance.