American public TV stations – currently funded by private donations and government handouts – can broadcast commercials for the first time as they make the switch to digital broadcasting.

In a 3–1 vote, the Federal Communications Commission ruled last week that such stations could run ads on some of their new data or subscription services. Digital broadcasts can include more programming over the same channel, allowing public broadcasters to set up paid-for services such as televised lectures and college courses.

The FCC cautioned that a “substantial majority” of a station’s digital capacity must stay free-to-air. Such broadcasts may not run ads.

“The soul of public broadcasting is in no way compromised,” said FCC chairman Michael Powell in response to allegations the decision would hinder the mission of public TV. “I don’t think it is a path to commercialization, but an extension of one that already exists.”

News source: (US)