NCSA programs have been in existence since 1962, and are endorsed by numerous governors, state agencies and the federal government. Over 40 state broadcasters associations are running NCSA programs.
NCSA: Non-Commercial Sustaining Announcement
In virtually every state, broadcasters donate unsold airtime to their state broadcasters' associations, which in turn make that airtime available to nonprofits and government agencies–which would never be commercial advertisers–so that they can conduct more effective outreach than by conventional Public Service Announcements (PSA).
An NCSA is a hybrid between a public service announcement and a regular commercial advertisement designed to assist states and non-profits with broad based public awareness campaigns. NCSAs are handled like commercial messages in that the sponsor receives affidavits indicating when the messages ran and the value of the airtime. NCSAs are broadcast between 6am and midnight, unlike PSAs, which often air when audiences are smaller, and are usually unavailable during the peak retail periods before Memorial Day and Christmas.
NCSAs Assist States, Government Agencies, and Non-Profit Organizations
The FCC and the IRS have afforded the NCSA program “special status” to promote their use by government agencies and non-profit organizations because they are so valuable in promoting public awareness. If this sounds too good to be true, there’s a catch: the availability of NCSA inventory is very limited. Broadcasters donate unsold airtime, and the broadcasters’ association cannot compete with our member stations for paid advertising dollars. Instead, we encourage the state and non-profits to buy paid, targeted advertising whenever appropriate – as in the case of anti-smoking messages, which are most effectively run during the TV shows that teenagers watch (that kind of targeted media must be purchased). The NCSA program is restricted to non-commercial messages.
NCSAs get the Reach and Frequency to Deliver your Message!
This is what the Schaefer Center for Public Policy, University of Baltimore said in a 1996 report: “The Public Awareness Campaign conducted jointly by the Maryland Vehicle Theft Prevention Council (MVTPC) and the Maryland/District of Columbia/Delaware Broadcaster’s Association appeared to be highly effective and provided wide coverage of the population. Generally, educational and media campaigns reach many more affected citizens than law enforcement, prosecutorial, or correction programs…Funding for public awareness and education about MVT (Motor Vehicle Theft) appears to be highly successful and since these strategies hold great promise for reducing MVT, it is recommended that they be pursued vigorously. In general, although a balanced approach to MVT is desirable, prevention activities promise “more bang for the buck.” The state of Maryland’s investment in the MVTPC and its programs were returned at a rate of 168%.”
While funding existed for The Maryland Vehicle Theft Prevention Council (MVTPC) to use the state broadcaster association’s NCSA program for their public awareness campaign, vehicle thefts declined 38%.
When are NCSAs Best Used?
NCSAs are used in every state, most often for the Army National Guard, US Coast Guard, state departments of Tourism, Health, and Highway Safety – and they have worked in this region – in Maryland, Delaware, the District of Columbia and Northern Virginia.
NCSAs are most appropriate for public awareness of issues that cut across all demographics, where there is insufficient budget to cover the state or region adequately with paid advertising. Under the right circumstances, an NCSA campaign administered by the MDCD Broadcasters Association can deliver the “biggest bang for the buck” for a state government agency or non-profit’s investment. That’s because in this region over 90% of the population work and/or commute in the Baltimore Washington corridor, making a "Twin Beltway Strategy" particularly cost-effective --especially when the media weight is multiplied by a factor of 5 through NCSAs.
Here’s how an NCSA program works
A state or federal government agency or a non-profit organization gives the broadcasters’ association a grant to promote a specific program that can be targeted statewide or regionally. In return, that agency is guaranteed airtime worth 4-5 times the value of their investment.