Broadcast philanthropy – Making a difference on the air

On-air philanthropy by U.S. broadcasters is an $8.1 billion business.

Television and radio stations donated $5.6 billion worth of airtime in the 12 months through last July for public-service announcements — and raised billions more for charitable causes, the Associated Press reports.

The National Association of Broadcasters, which surveyed 11,000 of the nation’s radio and TV broadcasters, found they raised $2.3 billion in charitable funds through telethons and other broadcast events.

Broadcasters raised another $200 million for disaster relief.

The study does not include experimental projects by broadcasters like Capitol Broadcasting Co. in Raleigh, N.C., which has begun giving away high-profile airtime on WRAL-TV and its other broadcasting subsidiaries to political candidates during state elections.

“Information is sometimes just as important as food, shelter and water in a crisis,” Michael Armstrong of the Federal Emergency Management Agency told AP.

The report by the broadcasters group could deter the government from imposing additional public-service obligations on broadcasters.

Public-interest groups that have pressed for more public affairs broadcasting say the numbers reflect what good corporate citizens do, and government may still have to intervene to secure more public-interest programming.

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