Underwriting 101

Underwriting 101

Whether you’re new to public radio, or just need a refresher, we like to educate our partners on the difference between underwriting and commercial advertising. Underwriting differs from commercial advertising in both sound and spirit. The public radio audience responds best to straightforward information presented in a concise, clear and sincere manner. 

  • All underwriting announcements must include the legal name of the organization paying for the announcement, and are preceded by the opening phrase   “90.5 WESA is supported by…”
  • All underwriting announcements must close with the phrase “More information is available at (phone number) or online at (web address).”
  • 90.5 WESA underwriting announcements are twenty (20) seconds in length and are pre-recorded spots by 90.5 WESA staff announcers.
  • 90.5 WESA does not permit the use of pre-produced announcements or music beds.
  • Information included in announcements is intended to identify rather than promote the sponsor, or the sponsor’s products or services.  Acknowledgements may not contain “non-identifying verbosity”.
  • The use of pronouns: “you,” “your,” “their,” “us,” “I,” and “we” are not permitted.

All underwriting announcements must comply with FCC rules and 90.5 WESA policy (outlined below). Final approval of copy lies with 90.5 WESA.

Underwriting Credits MAY Include

  • Up to 3 mentions of Sponsor's name
  • Address of business
  • Phone number and/or website address
  • Value-neutral description of business, products and services
  • Three Brand, Vendor or Trade names

FCC underwriting guidelines explicitly prohibit

  • Calls to action such as “call,” “stop by,” “email,” “visit”; or phrases prompting action;
  • References to price such as “free,” “10% percent off,” “complimentary,” “no down payment,” etc.;
  • Qualitative or comparative language or claims such as “best,” “greatest,” “most reliable,” “oldest,” “largest,”  “can improve/provide/teach/expand…” etc.;
  • Inducements to act such as “while supplies last,” “special gift,” “on sale,” “limited offer,” etc.;
  • Overstated or subjective language such as “fun-filled,” “enjoyable,” “long awaited,” “by popular demand,” “authentic character,” “informed counsel,” “professional advice”;
  • Endorsements such as “recommended by New York Times,” “the Wall Street Journal says,”  “U.S. News & World Report’s Top 10,” etc.;
  • Credentials; i.e., “Board certified,” “Award winning,” etc.;
  • Words such as "you," "your," "our," and "we" are not permitted as part of underwriting language. It suggests a personal endorsement on the part of the station.

These guidelines are based on FCC rules and on 90.5 WESA policy. WESA program management requires at least 48 hours for edits and/or approval.

Disclaimer: 90.5 WESA will not air funding announcements that contain language advocating for any cause, group or individual.  90.5 WESA reserves the right to refuse any request for underwriting that would violate an FCC rule or policy, violate station policies or adversely affect the reputation or financial condition of the station. No announcements will be aired on behalf of political organizations, political candidates or their committees, or that express a view on issues of public importance or interest or religious belief. 90.5 WESA will consider each request on a case-by-case basis. No more than one (1) event may be listed in any underwriting announcement. No more than six (6) underwriting announcements may air in one day (and may be less depending on inventory).

These regulations serve to protect the Non-Commercial content that public radio listeners value.  In this way, the special integrity of the relationship between the station and its listeners extends to the underwriter as well.           

For more information, please email Dorothy Frank, Director of Corporate Support or call 412.697.2929.