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.