Foreign Sponsorship ID Rules Updated by FCC

FCC seal
(Image credit: FCC)

WASHINGTON—The FCC has officially updated its rules regarding sponsorship identification requirements that call for broadcasters to disclose when foreign governments or their representatives lease time on their airwaves. The FCC says the new rules will increase transparency to let audiences know when content is sponsored by a foreign government.

The new sponsorship identification rules now require the 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 from the Foreign Agents Registration Act of 1938 and the Communications Act of 1934.

A station airing foreign government-provided programming must also now include such disclosures in its Online Public Inspection File.

The Order was approved by all the FCC commissioners.

“We know that foreign entities are purchasing time on broadcast stations in markets across the country, including Chinese government-sponsored programming and Russian government-sponsored programming right here in our nation’s capital,” said Acting FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel.

According to Rosenworcel, the process will require that broadcasters ask whoever is leasing airtime if they or their programming are from a foreign government. If yes, a sponsorship identification needs to be placed on air and in the station’s public file. If no, a broadcaster must independently verify the lessee using the Foreign Agent Registration Act website.

This last step is one of the primary issues that the NAB has with the new rules, highlighted recently in a post from NAB General Counsel Rick Kaplan.

The organization issued an official statement credited to NAB Senior Vice President of Communications Ann Marie Cumming following the FCC’s approval of the Order.

“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 Commissioner Carr and Simington to avoid undue regulatory burdens, and the efforts of the Media Bureau to constructively engage with us throughout this proceeding.”