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New FCC Foreign Sponsorship ID Rules Now in Effect

An FCC rule now in effect imposes new broadcaster sponsorship identification obligations to point out programming that is provided by, sponsored by, or paid for by a “foreign governmental entity.”

You can read the FCC’s original order here.  

It went into effect March 17 after its publication in the Federal Register.

Attorney Travis Andring of TAB Associate Member law firm Fletcher Heald and Hildreth said the FCC defines “foreign governmental entity” to include governments of foreign countries, foreign political parties, certain agents of foreign principals, and U.S.-based foreign media outlets.

Another portion of the rules requires broadcasters to perform due diligence to assess whether a foreign government is the source of programming subject to lease agreements.

Attorney David Oxenford with TAB Associate Member law firm Wilkinson Barker Knauer said this type of “reasonable diligence” as described by the FCC would include “asking program suppliers if they are representatives of foreign governments and confirming their answers by checking specified government websites.”

In an advisory he has written on the subject, Fletcher Heald Hildreth’s Andring recommends taking the following steps:

  • Inform the programmer of your foreign sponsorship disclosure obligations;
  • Directly ask the programmer whether they fall into one of the above categories;
  • Ask the programmer whether anyone involved in producing/distributing the programming qualifies as a foreign governmental entity;
  • If the programmer denies any connection to a foreign governmental entity, independently verify their status by consulting the Department of Justice’s FARA website and the FCC’s semi-annual U.S.-based foreign media outlets reports; and
  • Document and maintain a record of steps 1-4 above in case of future FCC inquiry.

Along with discussion of the new rules, the Fletcher Heald Hildreth advisory has suggested language for the broadcast sponsorship identification needed in such cases.

Oxenford said stations “have six months to review existing contracts for the sale of program time to determine if there is foreign-government involvement and to come into compliance with the disclosure requirements.”

One important distinction, Oxenford added, is that “short-form advertising, like 30- and 60-second spots, is exempt from the rules.”

Oxenford also has written at length on the new rules and stations can read his advisory here.

One final note on the new obligation: The NAB, MMTC and NABOB have jointly filed an appeal to prevent the new rules’ enforcement. TAB will keep broadcasters updated on any new developments.

Questions? Contact TAB’s Michael Schneider or call (512) 322-9944.

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