Public Service Announcement Regulations - Texas
Public service announcements (PSAs) are regulated by both national government entities and by individual broadcast networks. In general, PSAs are required by networks to be nationally focused, and so, they are subject to little or no state mandated regulation. Primarily, broadcast networks maintain final decision-making authority as to what PSAs are broadcast, but they are under obligation to show commitment to public wellness by the Federal Communication Commission (FCC).
Public Service Announcement Network Regulations
- Each PSA has to match the missions and goals of the sponsoring organization.
- Along with governmental regulations, PSAs have to satisfy network requirements and individual broadcast policies. Each broadcast network maintains their own quality and presentation requirements for broadcasts, including PSAs.
- Controversial public issues, including religiously based PSAs are not allowed.
- Mostly, PSAs are required to be nationally focused, not limited to state or local needs/issues and have to be beneficial to the public.
- Broadcast networks have the final approval decision of whether to air any PSA.
- PSAs are also monitored for basic production quality and message presentation.
- No explicitly stated private corporations, businesses, services, or products can be in any way displayed in a PSA by network standards.
- PSAs that ask for donations or other funds are subject to special review, but must be specifically dedicated to benefiting the public.
- If a network is donating the airtime for a PSA, any request for funding is not allowed.
- While exact and specific network regulations for PSA quality and presentation are not available during the production and airing process, major broadcast networks such as NBC air content from large, non-profit supporters and PSA content creators on the topics and fields of education, children's services, diversity, voting, employment, disability services, public health and environmentalism.
Federal Communication Commission (FCC) Compliance
- Since PSAs are not paid broadcasts, FCC "sponsorship identification rules do not apply."
- In paid broadcasts, beneficiary organizations of any fund-raising, sales or services must be stated in the content, but this does not apply to PSAs.
- By FCC standards, inclusions in PSAs displaying private sponsors and/or supporting businesses is not explicitly prohibited. Thus, generating support for individual companies through public aid campaigns, indirectly, is not expressly forbidden by the FCC.
- The FCC also does not take action against offensive broadcasts, with the exception of broadcasts that violate specific laws. This also applies to the quality and content of PSA production, where the FCC does not appear to impose any specific regulations separate from direct illegality, as in the example of advertising of tobacco products, which is not applicable to PSAs that are not commercially supporting the product.
- They also include provisions that prohibit the use of false, misleading, or subliminal methods in any broadcasts.
- The inclusion of political candidates in PSAs can violate the FCC "Equal Time Rule." Under this regulation, any air-time allowed for a candidate must be provided for an opposing candidate if requested.
- This can lead to network air-time obligations to opposing political candidates if any candidate appears in a PSA.
- Some information states that networks were once required to provide a certain amount of donated air-time for public service announcements, but this regulation is no longer in place. No exact years of effect of these regulations were found.
- Other information reported by the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) expresses that the FCC never required specific amounts of PSAs to be included in broadcasts, but does require broadcast networks to prove commitments to public needs during the process of license renewal. This is a regulation form that is still currently in place, also including compliance with emergency and local public announcements.
Non-Profit and Government Public Service Announcements
- Organizations that produce and air PSAs usually have to be either non-profit or government entities.
- Private associations of professionals or tradesmen are not generally permitted, as they are often aimed at benefiting the supporting organization.
For-Profit Organization Public Service Announcements
- For-profit entities that produce PSAs are subject to the same requirements as non-profit sponsored PSAs.
- In paid commercials that support PSAs or other non-profits/charities, these for-profit companies must clearly state their organization title with reference to their sponsorship.
SAG-AFTRA Celebrity Public Service Announcements
- In the case of celebrity advocates featured in PSAs, an organization called SAG-AFTRA keeps its own set of regulations that govern and approve whether celebrity member fees may be waived as long as the PSA is aired to benefit a government organization, or is sponsored by that government organization. This also includes PSAs that are produced by, or benefit a charity, including public services and museums.
- Before inquiring about a SAG-AFTRA public figure's participation in a PSA, approval must be gained from the organization and the airtime dedicated to the PSA has to be donated.
- In these instances, no company logos may be included in the announcement.
Since the majority of PSAs are required by networks to be nationally focused, state-specific regulations were not found readily available. Numerous Texas State resources were searched for any governmental division that handles and regulates PSAs, but none were found; the only Texas State public service announcement information available listed current PSA campaigns by some sectors without reference to specific regulations or requirements. Individual broadcast networks were shown to maintain their own requirements for PSA quality and presentation, and although content provider organizations, past PSA examples and topics were found, specific and explicitly stated regulations and requirements of individual networks were not found available. One source from 2017 was included in reference to the past requirement that broadcast networks provide a certain amount of donated air-time for PSAs, which is not a current regulation.