Media Orgs Challenge FCC Foreign Sponsorship ID Rules

FCC seal
(Image credit: FCC)

 WASHINGTON, D.C.—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 Federal Communications Commission (FCC) order mandating disclosures for foreign government-sponsored programming.

In the petition, the organizations argue that “the new rules impose on every broadcaster—i.e., thousands of stations, some very small, which collectively have many thousands of contracts for the lease of time to air programming—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. The broadcaster must determine (and then announce) whether the sponsor of the programming is a foreign governmental entity or its agent, even if the leased programming (such as an infomercial or local religious broadcast) poses no colorable risk of foreign sponsorship.”

The petition argued that these requirements would be particularly burdensome to small broadcasters owned by women or people of color,

The organizations also argued that the rules would do little to address the problem of foreign interference in elections. “Those regulations 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,” the petition noted. 

In a separate statement to the press, the NAB, MMTC and NABOB noted that they “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.”

The full petition is available here

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.