Who governs underwriting credits on public television?
There are several sets of underwriting "guidelines" as they pertain to public television. First, there is the federal law affecting noncommercial broadcasters, with statutes enacted by Congress and rules and policies adopted by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). All public broadcasters – national producers, distributors and local stations – are REQUIRED to abide by the federal law and FCC rules and regulations that address underwriting on public television.
Second, there are various forms of self-regulation on a national scale, such as the national underwriting policies adopted by the PBS Board of Directors, or guidelines adopted by other distribution sources. These guidelines provide rules for credit content, duration and placement. These national guidelines will be adhered to by any producers that have underwriting credits attached to content that is distributed by the national distribution services.
Finally, there are the local underwriting policies that individual stations may use for local underwriting credits that appear on their own air. Local stations may adopt the national guidelines as their local underwriting guidelines; however, local stations are NOT REQUIRED to adhere to national underwriting policies for local credit content and duration. Local stations are only bound by federal law and FCC rules and regulations that address underwriting on public television. Many stations choose to adhere to national guidelines because they comply with federal law and promote consistency in underwriting credit messages.