Calls to Action

A major difference between non-commercial radio and commercial radio is the prohibition against issuing calls to action on noncommercial stations. A call to action is:

1) urging, suggesting, or telling listeners to do something that could result in a for-profit business making money; this constitutes advertising.

2) urging or recommending that listeners take political or lobbying actions (forbidden by the IRS). Examples of calls to action include:

  • Urging the listener to buy something, to go to an event, concert, or performance.
  • Mentioning that the underwriter is a friend or that the programmer likes them
  • Giving the price of something to buy, a service, or a concert ticket, or saying they are free.
  • Urging the listener to go to a store or venue or telling them to call or go to their web site.
  • Urging listeners to boycott a company, event, etc.
  • Urging or recommending on the air that listeners take political actions such as “contact your congressman” or “go to that demonstration.”

It is usually legal to make a call to action when referencing a non-profit organization (e.g. “Send your donations to the American Red Cross”)

Public service announcements may usually contain calls to action.

Below are more examples of what does – and does not – constitute a call to action.

  • “This is the latest single from The Future Kings of Nowhere.” —Legal
  • “That was the Avett Brothers. Their new album comes out next Tuesday.” Legal
  • “That was Annuals. Their new album comes out next Tuesday and you should go buy its.” —Illegal; urging listeners to make a purchase and mentioning a specific business.
  • “That was Inflowential. I saw them last week at Cat’s Cradle and they were awesome.” —Legal, however, if programmer constantly mentions a business, it is bordering on plugola.
  • “I have the Rosebuds here with me in the studio. They’re playing tonight at Lincoln Center and we have a pair of tickets to give away to the second caller.” – Legal,however, the programmer saying he/she likes them in any way constitutes advertising and is not allowed-

Please contact us if you have questions or need help:

  • Ursula Ruedenberg, Pacifica Affiliates Coordinator / 510-812-7989 / 
  • Stephanie Schubert, Network operations coordinator /