FCC Seeks Comments on Foreign Sponsorship ID Requirements

FCC seal
(Image credit: FCC)

WASHINGTON—Following a petition filed by broadcast TV stations asking the FCC to clarify their April 2021 order requiring broadcasters to disclose when leased programming is supplied by foreign governments, the FCC Media Bureau has asked for public comments on the issue.  

The April FCC report and order clarified long standing rules that broadcasters must name the individual or entity providing sponsored programming by explicitly stating that broadcasters had to ID programming provided by foreign governments. 

The ruling came after reports of programming provided by Russia being aired on broadcasters during the 2020 election cycle and growing concerns over Russian propaganda seeking to influence the election. 

On July 19, 2021, the ABC Television Affiliates Association, CBS Television Network Affiliates Association, FBC Television Affiliates Association, and NBC Television Affiliates filed a petition with the FCC seeking clarification on the order. 

In asking for public comments the Media Bureau noted that “the Commission’s Report and Order requires disclosure for broadcast programming aired through a leased airtime agreement sponsored by any entity or individual that is a foreign government, a foreign political party, an agent acting on behalf of such entities, or a U.S.-based foreign media outlet based on definitions drawn from the Foreign Agents Registration Act of 1938 and the Communications Act of 1934. The Report and Order requires broadcasters to make certain inquiries of those parties leasing airtime on a station to determine whether the programming requires a disclosure.”

The July petition from broadcast affiliates sought a clarification that the rules contained in the Commission’s Report and Order did not apply when a station “sells time to advertisers in the normal course of business,”  in contrast to when it leases airtime on the station.

The petition from the affiliates noted that they were asking for the clarification because the FCC’s reference to “traditional short-form advertising” in paragraph 28 of the Report and Order created confusion amongst the Affiliates’ members about what type of programming arrangements are subject to the new requirements.

George Winslow

George Winslow is the senior content producer for TV Tech. He has written about the television, media and technology industries for nearly 30 years for such publications as Broadcasting & Cable, Multichannel News and TV Tech. Over the years, he has edited a number of magazines, including Multichannel News International and World Screen, and moderated panels at such major industry events as NAB and MIP TV. He has published two books and dozens of encyclopedia articles on such subjects as the media, New York City history and economics.