There was a song in the early 80’s with the line “it goes on and on and on and on….” The Federal Communication Commission (FCC) recently levied fines for an underwriting announcement that seemed to go ‘on and on and on’ about a roofing company. It stated that they offered “Custom metal roofing, siding, hardware, trim, insulation, trusses and perma felt paper”.
Same for a gardening center mentioning they provide “bulk and bag mulch, peat moss, potting soil, bulk top soil, and decorative borders…pick-up and delivery”. They do offer all those services, that’s a fact, but the FCC said, “excessively detailed menus of multiple product/service offerings by underwriters exceed the type of information that would enable listeners to identify supporters of non-commercial programming”.
You can mention multiple non-promotional products and services, just don’t go on and on and on and on….about them.
Although the Federal Communication Commission didn’t say how many was too much, we would suggest no more than three. If you have more than three, you might consider:
• Rotating acknowledgement featuring different items.
• Using a female voice that might deal with more female items
• Using a male voice that might deal more with the “bulk mulch and “decorative borders, potting soil and bag mulch”, top soil, lawn mowers”.
Now I could go on and on and on and on…but you can find out more here. Click Here
Director of Underwriting
Positive Alternative Radio
Among the most satisfying functions of a radio station is audio production.
At the same time, this is one of the most frustrating jobs, particularly with commercials. You can crank that frustration level up a few more notches when producing underwriting announcements for a non-commercial station. The FCC guidelines are enough to cause bouts of heartburn with the “do’s and don’ts” that have a myriad of interpretations, depending on which FCC legal counsel or “so-called” station expert on the matter you’re speaking to.
The up-front work before a spot goes to production is critical to achieving excellence in the final product, before it goes to air. This begins in the sales department. Non-commercial stations sales people are typically referred to as underwriting representatives. How about we call them Sponsor Care Specialists? I like that. Anyway, the SCS has the power to make the difference between mediocre client service and care that speaks “excellence”.
This begins with how the SCS presents what we can and cannot say in their script. As a non-commercial, educationally licensed station, we provide acknowledgments or a“Thank You’” for the sponsor’s tax-deductible donation. Semantics play a key role in helping the donor understand the differences between commercials and underwriting spots. Though we will not address the FCC Underwriting Guidelines here, simply stated, we can provide acknowledgements similar to those heard on Public Broadcasting stations. It is incumbent on the SCS to know what these limitations are and how to navigate sponsor questions to arrive at a script that is agreed on by all parties.
With the Underwriting Agreement in hand and the Production/Insertion Order with approved script ready to go, these documents, including any special instructions, go to the Traffic Department for processing.
Phew!! That sounds like quite an ordeal! This phase of the production process is critical to excellence. Having a solid and sustainable means of communication between the Underwriting Department, Traffic and Production is paramount in the second phase. Having a work-flow that covers the necessary details for each Agreement and Order saves time and frustration.
Once Traffic enters all Agreement and Order information into the station traffic system, Spirit FM takes advantage of Google Spreadsheet to communicate the Production Order details, i.e., Business Partner, Start Date, End Date, Cart Number, Voice Talent/AGY, Date Sent to Talent, Date Completed, Underwriting Rep.
Now Production is ready to take it from here. The SCS tells the sponsor/client that it takes five (5) business days, typically, to process their order and have it ready for air. This keeps us in control of the procedure and minimizes rush jobs that threaten our ability to achieve excellence consistently. It is recommended that the Sponsor Care Specialist (SCS) not provide the mp3 file of the produced spot until the end of business the day prior to air. Remember, the script has already had prior client approval. This avoids giving the sponsor the time to have co-workers, friends, family and dog from giving their opinions that often lead to changes. Talk about a source of anxiety and frustration, for the Production Department especially! I worked at an AM/FM commercial property several years ago with six (6) sales people. Imagine the bottleneck if each of them had changes to scripts and spots that could have been avoided with prior, proper planning.
Of course, we don’t live in a perfect world, so there will be occasions when last minute changes and rush orders take place, but these should be the exception and not the rule.
Though the relationship between sales, programming and production has been challenging since the dawn of radio, following protocols such as these are some of the First Steps to Excellent Production. And, a much happier Team!
General Manager, Spirit FM
Every day, our underwriting directors present PAR’s ministry, mission and vision while building relationships in our community; securing and accepting donations from like-minded businesses and leaders who enjoy and desire Christian radio in their communities. We are here to serve, create, deliver and help fund experiences that inspire our listeners to live passionately for Jesus Christ. We do not sell radio. We do not sell advertising. We do not necessarily have rate sheets.
In return, the Federal Communication Commission, (FCC) allows non-profit broadcasters to thank those businesses on the air in the form of Underwriting Messages. It really is that simple.
We identify the business donor. “Positive Alternative Radio would like to thank ABC Office Supply, 123 Main Street in Hometown USA…
Sometimes we add “…for their support”, “…for their donation”, “…for standing in partnership with WXYZ”. These are ‘added words’. Shorter is always better. Again, we are not selling advertising so we do not have to necessarily develop a full thirty second announcement. Granted, there are those ‘network blocks’ that are time sensitive but that’s more the exception than the norm. We are not selling radio and crafting some creative radio announcement, but forming a Thank You message for the donor businesses.
We can mention non-descript, value neutral services offered to the general public, along with hours of operation, website address and phone numbers; things that are factual and could be helpful for our listeners.
The outline is clearly stated and summarized in the conclusion, point 21. Click Here to see PDF.
Director of Business Development