Underwriting Guide

Answering questions about NFCB resources.

Many noncommercial stations rely on donations to help finance their operations. Whenever a donation is provided in exchange for the broadcast of any “matter,” including an underwriting announcement, the station is required to identify the “sponsor.” The public’s right to know who has furnished or paid for a broadcast is the policy underlying the sponsorship identification requirement.

The Communications Act and FCC policies require noncommercial licensees to acknowledge underwriters on the air. At the same time, they also prohibit those licensees from saying too much about the underwriter that is of a promotional nature. This guide is intended to assist you in identifying the line between saying enough and saying too much. If the Commission determines that an acknowledgement violates the underwriting rules, it may either warn or fine the licensee. In the past, fines for violations of underwriting rules have ranged from $2,000–$10,000, depending on the frequency, number, and severity of a station’s violations.

Keep in mind that while the FCC has articulated some guidelines, it has not directly addressed all of the underwriting issues in detail. The NFCB Underwriting Guide is intended to help answer key as well as complicated questions, including:

  • Permissible Language
  • Interrupting Regular Programming
  • Promoting For-Profit Underwriters
  • Comparative and Qualitative Language
  • Price Information
  • Calls to Action
  • Inducements to Buy, Sell, or Lease
  • Political Candidates
  • Supporting Political Issues
  • Logos
  • For-Profits in Nonprofit Underwriting
  • Nonprofits in For-Profit Underwriting
  • Languages Other Than English
  • Underwriters and Community Calendars

The NFCB Underwriting Guide is available to NFCB members in the Solution Center. If you’re not an NFCB member yet, you can join now.

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