Can we use a TV commercial as an underwriting announcement on public television?

Noncommercial educational broadcasters are by federal law prohibited from broadcasting advertisements.  An advertisement, according to the statute, is a message, broadcast in exchange for remuneration, which promotes “any service, facility, or product offered by any person who is engaged in such offering for profit.”  In short, public television is required to identify its program underwriters (also sometimes called “sponsors”) but cannot promote them.  

TV commercials or other sponsorship messages produced for other purposes may sometimes be readily adapted for use on public television.  Occasionally they are acceptable as is.  This might be the case when the commercial does not overtly promote the products, services, or facilities of the sponsor, but rather identifies the company in what we deem to be “value-neutral” language and visuals. 

More often, some changes will be required.