PBS Program Policy

PBS Policy

Public television is a major participant in the great tradition of a free and independent American press. Therefore, public television must protect its journalistic integrity and it must reinforce the accurate perception that it is a free and independent institution.

Public television’s nonprofit, noncommercial status contributes to its independent and public television and enjoys certain financial and other benefits by virtue of its noncommercial, nonprofit status. Therefore, its noncommercial character must be preserved.

The diversity of program funding sources is a key element in the preservation of a free and independent public television system. Therefore, these guidelines should encourage national program underwriting from all corners of the public and private sector.


Based on these fundamental principles, PBS has developed guidelines for the acceptance of program funding from third parties. These guidelines are intended to ensure:

  • That editorial control of programming remains in the hands of the producer.
  • That funding arrangements will not create the perception that editorial control had been exercised by someone other than the producer, or that the program has been inappropriately influenced by its funding sources, and
  • That the noncommercial character of public broadcasting is protected and preserved.


In addition to achieving the policy objectives established by the PBS member stations, these guidelines also serve to ensure that programs will be in compliance with regulations of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). The FCC’s rules require broadcasters to “fully and fairly disclose the true identity” of all program funders. From the Commission’s standpoint, the purpose served by underwriting credits is to identify the funder in the interests of full disclosure, not to promote the funder or its products and services. Consistent with this purpose, the FCC has determined that underwriting credits on public television programs may include the following identifying information in addition to the underwriter’s name:

  • Logograms or slogans which identify and do not promote
  • Location information and telephone numbers
  • Value neutral descriptions of a product line or service
  • Brand and trade names and product or service listings


American public television, comprised of free and independent noncommercial broadcasters, is committed to providing programming that is produced in accordance with the very highest ethical, journalistic and professional standards. Therefore, PBS will always hold the producer fully accountable for the program and will not allow editorial control to be exercised by anyone else, including program funders.