Sponsorship Guidelines

This is an overview of current public television sponsorship guidelines.

In the United States, all public broadcast channels whether national or local must abide by federal law and FCC rules for underwriting content appearing on public television.

PBS NATIONAL GUIDELINES

Rules for credit content, duration and placement must be followed by any producers with underwriting credits attached to their content in distribution or syndication to public television stations. The three fundamental principles are these:

  • Public television is a major participant in the great tradition of a free and independent American press, and must therefore protect its journalistic integrity and reinforce the perception that it is a free and independent institution.
  • Public television’s nonprofit, non-commercial status contributes to its independence and enables it to enjoy certain financial and other benefits as a result. Its non-commercial character must be preserved.
  • Diversity of program funding sources is a key element in the preservation of a free and independent public television system.

PBS will examine the funder and the content to ensure that the funder meets the three-part test:

  • Editorial Control Test: Has the funder exercised editorial control? Could it?
  • Perception Test: Might the public perceive that the funder has exercised editorial control?
  • Commercialism Test: Might the public conclude the program is on public television principally because it promotes the funder’s products, services or other business interests?

LOCAL MARKETS

Individual public television stations may employ their own local underwriting policies, or they may adopt the national guidelines. Local stations are not required to adhere to national underwriting policies for local credit content and duration. Local stations are bound by federal law and FCC rules and regulations that address underwriting on public television.

FCC GUIDELINES FOR ON-AIR SPONSORSHIP ON PUBLIC TELEVISION

An underwriter may not be anonymous.
Spots may include:

  • Location information
  • Value neutral descriptions of a product line or service
  • Brand and trade names and product or service listings
  • Logos or slogans which identify, but do not promote

ACCEPTABLE underwriting copy

  • Value neutral descriptions of a product line or service
  • Brand and trade names and product or service listings
  • Visual descriptions of specific products
  • Location information, including telephone numbers and web addresses
  • Logos or slogans which identify and do not promote

UNACCEPTABLE underwriting copy

  • Calls to action (“Come in" or "Call now”)
  • Superlative description or qualitative claim about the company, its products, or services (“The best” or “The most”)
  • Direct comparison with other companies, their products or services
  • Price or value information (words like “affordable,” “discount” or “free”)
  • Inducements to buy, sell, rent, or lease (eg. “lifetime guarantee”)
  • Endorsements (“recommended by...”)
  • Demonstrations of consumer satisfaction

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