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FCC Proposes Rules to Require Disclosure of Programs that Foreign Government Sponsor

The U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has proposed to adopt a new rule that will require that, if a foreign government sponsors any content in a TV or radio station, the station must make a public disclosure.

The decision was announced on Monday October 26. The Commission’s statement said, “the American people deserve to know when a foreign government has paid for programming, or furnished it for free, so that viewers and listeners can better evaluate the value and accuracy of such programming.”

The new rule “requires a specific disclosure at the time of broadcast if a foreign governmental entity has paid a radio or television station, directly or indirectly, to air material, or if such an entity has provided the programming to the station free of charge as an inducement to broadcast the material.” While the Commission’s current rules require a sponsorship identification when a station has been compensated for airing particular material, the rules require disclosure of the sponsor’s name and usually do not require that a station determine whether the source of the programming is in fact a foreign government or mandate that the connection to a foreign government is disclosed to the public at the time of broadcast.

Jessica Rosenworcel, an FCC commissioner, said in her written statement, “Right now, we are awash in reports that foreign actors are attempting to influence our political process and democratic elections in the United States. We also know that foreign entities are purchasing time on broadcast stations in markets across the country, including Russian government-sponsored programming right here in our nation’s capital. But it’s mindboggling that the FCC has yet to update its policies … to ensure that the public knows when foreign actors who may wish to do us harm are paying to access our airwaves and influence our citizens.”

In September, the FCC’s chair Ajit Pai proposed rules to ensure transparency of foreign government sponsored broadcast content. He said, “with some station content coming from the likes of China and Russia, it is time to update our rules and shed more sunlight on these practices.”

“Today we begin to fix this situation. We propose to adopt specific disclosure requirements for broadcast programming that is paid for or provided by a foreign government or its representative. This is about basic transparency and it frankly shouldn’t have taken us so long.” said Rosenworcel.

Source: FCC, October 26, 2020