Effective today—and over broadcasters’ strong objections —TV and radio stations now are required by the Federal Communications Commission to disclose when foreign governments or their representatives lease time on their airwaves.
“This action was adopted unanimously by the FCC in April 2021 and increases transparency, ensuring audiences are aware when a foreign government, or its representatives, uses the airwaves to persuade the American public,” the commission wrote in an announcement Tuesday.
“These rules are effective immediately for new leasing agreements and will need to be implemented within 6 months from the Federal Register publication date for existing agreements.”
It quoted Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel saying it’s all about transparency on public airwaves. “It is essential that audiences know when a broadcast station has been compensated to air content coming from a foreign government.”
The rules now require on-air 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.
In addition, if a station is airing foreign government-provided programming pursuant to a lease agreement, it is now required to include such disclosures in its Online Public Inspection File.
Several leading U.S. media organizations have brought suit against the commission for this requirement. The National Association of Broadcasters, the Multicultural Media, Telecom and Internet Council and the National Association of Black Owned Broadcasters last summer filed a petition for review with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. They say the FCC rule is illegal and onerous, and that the problem it seeks to address isn’t in fact a problem.
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