If you're new to writing underwriting copy, we have some guidelines.

It’s fantastic when you get a sponsor, and have the opportunity to write some underwriting copy of your very own, but public radio broadcasters have some rules to follow. They can be a little surprising- and a little tricky

So what’s allowed to be in there?

It has to begin with a statement such as “Support for {Program/Station} comes from” and can have the following in it:

  • Name and contact information (address, telephone number, website). In fact, this is required because you have to state, at minimum, the name of the organization who is paying for the service.

  • Brands or tradename of products or services  you can say Penzoil, Pepsi, Coca-Cola, or the name a company is doing business under, such as Walmart or Philly's Best Steak Company (which is not qualitative if it’s the name of the company).

  • Value-neutral descriptions of products or services - “brewers of ales, meads and arguments,” “Helping elders navigate their taxes,” “providing transportation for chihuahuas in Dubuque.

  • Non-promotional slogans Say It With Pizza” A company’s slogan is allowed if it’s used consistently, verbatim, for enough time (at least a year or usually more) that it can be used as an identifier for the organization- and used across platforms (magazine/paper/radio/web) on their mastheads, and so on. 
  • Historical informationwe’ve been in business since 1791”, “Two years at the same location”, “making horseshoes since Wednesday, November 17, 2021”. “Under the same management since 1066

  • Event dates Minnesota State Fair, August 22 through Labor Day.


  • Description of target market  “Products for Left-handed Hikers and Campers


There’s a whole lot of Nos here-  you Cannot include


  • Price information which means no mention of any price, cost, or value associated with a product or service - not even if it’s free. You can say, “Prices are available at saxaphonefred.com”, but not “Model 2739 is $19.95”, “a $100 value!” “a bargain!”, ”An inexpensive solution.”

  • Calls to action (no mention of something the listener should do related to the product or service) - “call today”, “call for more information”, “compare”, “Visit us on the web at...” are all forbidden. You CAN say “more information at www.saxaphonefred.com” or “more information is available at 555-123-3210

  • Inducements to buy, sell or lease 2 for 1” is not ok. Nor is “for a limited time”.
    No “pledge now and it’s doubled” (excepted for member drives only) “Shop now and get 6% off your next purchase of kohlrabi!” will not fly. “Kohlrabi goes on sale on Thursday” is ok.

  • Comparative or qualitative language  There can’t be a mention of how good a service is and no comparisons to other products or services. No “Award-winning” or “The best hot sauce ever” no “better than Saran Wrap” No “less expensive than our competitors” or even “more for less” statements.  Not even ”located conveniently” - though you can say “Located in Harvard Square”, or “10 locations in the Metro area”. No superlatives; ‘The best’, ‘industry-leader’, or even ‘leading’, nor even “AAA-Certified

Even if the sponsor actually has the awards, or the lowest prices, or can even prove that they’re the most convenient, colorful, etc… the underwriting cannot refer to those things.

  • Excessive repetition of information What the heck is excessive? Usually, an underwriter’s name is only repeated once per announcement, if at all. 

There can be no political announcements supporting or opposing a candidate, nor can there be views on issues of public importance - think opinion on a controversial issue. If you’re fundraising for another non-profit organization, that’s not allowed, either


On top of all that underwriting announcements can't be “too long”. 


What’s’ too long’? A minute is too much. 30 seconds is pushing it. 15 and 20 seconds are the most common lengths.

Here’s an example of what is acceptable:

Support for The PRX Distribution Team comes in part from Saxophone Fred’s, purveyors of saxophones since 1925, with 12 locations in Seattle, more information at www.saxophonefred.com, “Say it with a saxophone”

Notice something else? It’s in the third person; no talking directly to the audience, No “I”, ”me” or “you.” the sponsor can’t voice it - and announcers cannot comment after the announcement is over... “Hey,  just got a cool bargain there!” or “I always like their staff”- it may be true, but you can’t say it. 

Congratulations on the underwriting- may there be many more! You have the tools to create good underwriting copy; use them, and ensure you won’t have any problems down the line. Write it well enough, and you could attract even more underwriting- it works!


Was this article helpful?
0 out of 0 found this helpful
Have more questions? Submit a request