A public service announcement (PSA) is a commercial or advertisement from the government or a nonprofit group. Print or broadcast media that usually charge a fee for publishing advertising run the ads for free. Newspapers, magazines, online publications, radio and television stations all publish these announcements at least occasionally. Publishers don't charge the government or nonprofit organization for running the ads because they are doing it as part of a public service to promote a safety or health message.
An anti-drug advertisement is a common public service announcement. The ad may promote a nonprofit group such as Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous and include contact information on the television screen or in the print ad. The content of the ad usually shows how drug abuse can ruin lives. It may also give common symptoms of drug abuse and ask that anyone experiencing them or knows someone who is to call the number shown for help. In this way, PSAs can inform and educate the public about health issues while also offering direct contact information to nonprofit organizations that can provide help for the specific issue.
A public service announcement is something that most people see in magazines, hear on the radio or see and hear on television on a regular basis. For example, in a women’s magazine along with advertisements for food products, clothing and miscellaneous items, there is likely to be an ad from a health organization such as the American Heart Association. Its messages consistently inform the public about heart healthy activities and foods that help promote good heart health. The ad typically has a website address that people can go to in order to find groups to contact in their area as well as locate articles and information about living heart healthy lives.
Unpaid promotional messages that are public service announcements have to be from nonprofit or government organizations for the media to run the ads for free. A PSA director at a radio or television station usually must approve the organizations allowed to run announcements. Some public service announcements are likely to appear during a disease outbreak such as the swine flu. These types of PSAs are usually produced by a government's department of health and inform the public on what to do, such as effective hand-washing to help prevent contracting or spreading the disease.