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Petition Challenges Rules Mandating Foreign SID Disclosures


National Association of Broadcasters
National Association of Broadcasters

The National Association of Broadcasters (NAB), the Multicultural Media, Telecom and Internet Council (MMTC) and the National Association of Black Owned Broadcasters (NABOB) have filed a petition for review with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit challenging a FCC order mandating disclosures for foreign government-sponsored programming.

In the petition, the organizations argue that the FCC adopted "unnecessary and overly burdensome rules" that impose on every broadcaster onerous requirements to make specified inquiries of, and conduct independent research on, all the entities with whom broadcasters currently or will in the future have lease agreements. They also argue that the requirements would be particularly burdensome for smaller broadcasters, including stations owned by women and people of color and new entrants seeking to gain experience through leasing arrangements.

In the FCC order, broadcasters -- which collectively have many thousands of contracts for the lease of time to air programming -- would need to determine and announce whether the sponsor of programming is a foreign governmental entity or its agent. These determinations would be required even if the leased programming (such as an infomercial or local religious broadcast) poses no colorable risk of foreign sponsorship.

Broadcasters would also need to conduct inquiries and investigations at the time any lease is initially entered into and repeat them every time that same lease (with the same, already-investigated party) is renewed. Stations also must memorialize those inquiries and investigations and maintain that documentation.

The petition says that the new regulations authorized by the FCC's order are imposed only upon broadcasters, even though the problem that the Commission purports to address -- the failure to identify a foreign government entity that is the source of the programming -- is almost entirely associated with satellite and cable channels and, above all, with social media and the Internet.

In a statement, NAB, MMTC and NABOB said, "NAB, MMTC and NABOB are deeply concerned with the FCC's misguided attempt to develop uniform rules for disclosing foreign government-sponsored programming. The Commission's decision to require broadcasters in all circumstances to investigate the source of leased programming exceeds its statutory authority, is arbitrary and capricious and violates the First Amendment. Broadcasters strongly oppose foreign interference in American elections, but the Commission's order fails to even address this core objective. We look forward to presenting our case in court."

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