The FCC has issued a large fine against a noncommercial educational broadcaster for violating the prohibition on noncommercial stations airing commercial advertisements.

The fine against the University of Arkansas and its stations KBPU and KTYC was $76,000. The University is also required to implement an extensive five-year compliance plan.

Noncommercial stations are allowed to broadcast underwriting announcements that acknowledge and identify businesses that make gifts in support of programming, but the announcements cannot promote the sponsor or its goods or services. Underwriting announcements cannot contain comparative or qualitative descriptions; price information (sales or discounts); calls to action; inducements to buy, sell, rent, or lease; or excessively detailed “menu listings” of services that are offered. The FCC also cautions against underwriting announcements that are excessively long, warning that the longer the announcements, the more likely they will contain impermissible material.

The line between underwriting announcements and commercial advertisements is not always clear.