FCC Adopts New Sponsorship Id Rules for Foreign Government Content

Last week, the FCC adopted new sponsorship ID rules for program content that is sponsored by a foreign government.  The FCC noted:

“Although U.S. law restricts foreign governments and their representatives from holding a broadcast license directly, foreign governmental entities are increasingly purchasing time on domestic broadcast stations. The rules adopted today update the Commission’s sponsorship identification rules that have been in existence for over six decades.  Specifically, the 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 Order also adopts a requirement that a station airing foreign government-provided programming pursuant to a lease agreement must include such disclosures in its Online Public Inspection File.”

There is a question regarding the obligation of a station to determine whether a program is in fact being financed by a foreign government.  On this point Acting Chairperson Jessica Rosenworcel stated:

“Going forward, when a broadcaster leases a portion of their airwaves, they will need to ask lessees if they or their programming are from a foreign governmental entity.  If the answer is yes, a sponsorship identification will need to be placed on air and documented in the station’s public file.  If the answer is no, a broadcaster will need to independently verify the lessee using the Foreign Agent Registration Act website from the Department of Justice and the FCC’s semi-annual foreign media outlet reports.”

Commissioner Starks reaffirmed this position in his separate statement:

“It is therefore reasonable to require every licensee that leases airtime under the circumstances described herein to exercise reasonable diligence by independently determining whether a foreign government is the source of leased programming.

After careful review of recent filings in the record, we determined that reasonable diligence should still require a search of two readily-accessible, government-provided sources—the Department of Justice’s FARA website and the Commission’s semi-annual U.S.-based foreign media outlets reports.  However, after hearing from commenters that requiring licensees also to perform “unbounded” internet searches of lessees’ names would be overly burdensome, we eliminated that requirement.”

To see the FCC decision click HERE.


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