FCC: Broadcasters Must Disclose Foreign Government-Sponsored Content

Starting Tuesday, broadcasters are required to disclose foreign government-sponsored programming. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) unanimously adopted the foreign sponsorship identification rules in April 2021, today announcing a March 15 compliance date.

The rule is meant to increase transparency, notifying the American public when a foreign government or its representatives are attempting to persuade them. The action goes into effect immediately for new partnerships and must be implemented within six months from the Federal Register publication date for existing lease agreements.

While U.S. law forbids foreign governments and their representatives from holding broadcast licenses, they can and often do lease time on U.S. airwaves. Now, such broadcast agreements must be disclosed on-air, as well as included in the station’s Online Public Inspection File.

“With the adoption of these rules, the FCC took action to bring more transparency to foreign government-sponsored programming airing on public airwaves,” said FCC chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel. “In light of recent events, this effort — which is all about transparency — has taken on new importance. It is essential that audiences know when a broadcast station has been compensated to air content coming from a foreign government.”

While the FCC adopted this rule almost a year ago, the “recent events” Rosenworcel alludes to in her statement are certainly related to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Last month, Twitter announced that it would start labeling tweets that contain content from Russian state-affiliated media. The social media platform also said it would reduce the amplification and visibility of tweets containing content from Russian-backed media.