WASHINGTON—The FCC is poised to unfairly burden local over-the-air broadcasters with an additional regulation that would require them to take steps to determine whether or not any programmer leasing time is affiliated with a foreign government, writes Rick Kaplan, NAB general counsel in a new blog post on the association’s website.
“You might be wondering if there is an exception for the station leasing time to a long-standing business partner, right? Nope. What if you are leasing time to a local church for services on Sunday morning? Nope,” writes Kaplan.
At issue is a desire on the part of the FCC to help the public better understand when it is watching or listening to content sponsored by a foreign government. But such cases involving TV and radio broadcasters are so rare that Kaplan describes them as “[b]arely a blip on the overall media landscape.”
Where there is cause for concern is with pay-TV providers like DISH and DirecTV, as well as on the internet, says the blog.
“The Commission’s proposal, however, doesn’t address or even meaningfully acknowledge these actual threats,” he writes.
However, while NAB says broadcasters would be on “the receiving end of yet more asymmetric regulation,” it agrees with the underlying effort to inform viewers that they are watching or listening to content sponsored by a foreign government. Kaplan noted the association would be willing to assist the agency in that effort. NAB, however, disagrees with the FCC’s decision to focus its regulatory effort on broadcasters.
“There is simply no good reason why the Commission needs to saddle thousands of leases with new burdens of any kind, especially when the Commission hasn’t even asserted that broadcasters often do not know in the first instance if content they are airing is sponsored by a foreign government,” the blog said.
Branding the proposal to mandate broadcasters take multiple steps to determine if they are leasing time to a foreign government as “needless,” Kaplan said the agency should be looking at social media companies instead.
“That is regulation at its worst, and it should not make a return. If the Commission can’t address a widespread problem that occurs almost exclusively on other platforms, why not ask Congress to step in with regulations that actually meet the problem rather than reflexivity burdening over-the-air broadcasters?” he wrote.
Phil Kurz is contributing editor to TV Technology
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