Hastings Communications and Entertainment Law Journal


Randi M. Albert


This article explores the history of noncommercial television and radio broadcasting, and evaluates the utility and efficacy of the FCC's current standards for determining when broadcasting qualifies as "noncommercial" and is eligible for benefits concomitant with this status. Professor Albert posits that, in order to effectively evaluate the existence of a commercial/noncommercial broadcast distinction at all, one must look at the development of the law in this area and determine whether the current rules are serving their stated function. To this end, the article traces the history of noncommercial broadcasting and explicates the purpose for such a status. It also explains the FCC's current regulations of noncommercial broadcasting stations and how these regulations have actually been applied by the FCC. From this, Professor Albert concludes that the current FCC regulations, as interpreted by the agency, are "no longer adequate because of changes in technology and economic condition." To support this thesis, Professor Albert uses a recent transaction of a noncommercial station--the sale of WDCU-FM--to illustrate the problems that the present FCC regime presents for these stations. Finally, the article offers some suggested modifications to the FCC's guidelines which would help them comport with the modem problems faced by broadcasting licensees.