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FCC Order Adopts New Foreign Sponsorship ID Rules


Federal Communications Commission
Federal Communications Commission

The FCC has adopted new rules mandating disclosures for foreign government-sponsored programming. Although U.S. law restricts foreign governments and their representatives from holding a broadcast license directly, there have been instances where such foreign governmental entities contract with the licensee of a broadcast outlet to air programming of the foreign entity's choosing, or to lease the entire capacity of a radio station, without adequate disclosure of the true source of the programming.

The Commission issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) in October, 2020, proposing additional sponsorship identification rules to address specifically the problem of undisclosed foreign government-provided programming on U.S. broadcast stations. Through the proceeding, the Commission sought to increase transparency and ensure that audiences of broadcast stations are aware when a foreign government, or its representatives, are seeking to persuade the American public.

The Report and Order would define the scope of broadcaster programming that would require a disclosure to address specifically those circumstances in which a "foreign governmental entity" is programming a U.S. broadcast station pursuant to the lease of airtime. It would also define "foreign governmental entity" using existing definitions, statutes, or determinations by the U.S. Government as to when an entity or individual is a foreign government, a foreign political party, acting in the U.S. as an agent on behalf of a foreign government or foreign political party, or a U.S.-based foreign media outlet.

Additionally, it would amend the Commission's sponsorship identification rules to require a specific disclosure at the time of broadcast if material aired pursuant to the lease of time on the station has been sponsored, paid for, or furnished by a foreign governmental entity. The disclosure would use standardized language to indicate the specific entity and country involved and be made at the beginning and end of the broadcast and no less frequently than every 60 minutes for broadcasts of over a hour in duration.

NAB Senior Vice President of Communications Ann Marie Cumming said in a statement, "NAB supports the FCC's goal of ensuring that the public understands when it listens to or views programming supplied by foreign governmental entities. NAB and several other broadcast organizations have worked to ensure the rules are focused on the handful of broadcasters that air foreign government-sponsored programming, without creating burdens for the vast majority of broadcasters that do not air this content. Even though we do not believe the Commission ultimately achieved this aim, we greatly appreciate the efforts of Commissioners Carr and Simington to avoid undue regulatory burdens, and the efforts of the Media Bureau to constructively engage with us throughout this proceeding."

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