FCC Again Proposes to Revise Foreign Sponsorship Identification Rules

After a court struck down the requirement that broadcasters research federal sources to verify that buyers of airtime are not foreign government entities or agents, the FCC is proposing once again to “fortify” its foreign sponsorship identification rules.

Under the proposed rules, licensees would have to certify that they have informed entities leasing time from them about the foreign sponsorship identification rules, and obtained, or tried to obtain, a certification from each programmer stating whether the programmer is or is not a foreign governmental entity. In response, program lessees would be required to provide licensees with certifications. Licensees would then need to upload both certifications to their online public inspection files within 30 days of the execution or renewal of a program lease agreement.

In the alternative, the FCC could require licensees to obtain proof from program lessees that their names do not appear in either of the two federal government databases that the FCC’s original rules – which were rejected by the court – required licensees to search.

The FCC is also proposing standardized language for licensees and lessees to use, which it says would make the certification process more streamlined and less burdensome.

In addition, the FCC wants to clarify that the foreign sponsorship identification rules do not apply to traditional advertisements, and asks if it should presume that programming less than two minutes long is exempt.

As a reminder, the parts of the FCC’s earlier foreign sponsorship ID rules that were not struck down by the court are still in effect. Broadcast station licensees must: (1) tell program lessees about the foreign sponsorship disclosure requirement; (2) ask the lessee if it is a foreign governmental entity; (3) ask if the lessee knows if anyone in the chain of production or distribution for the programming is a foreign governmental entity; and (4) document these steps. The foreign sponsorship identification rules apply to all new program leases and renewals of existing program leases as of March 15, 2022.

Comments on the FCC’s new foreign sponsorship identification requirements will be due 30 days after publication of the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking in the Federal Register. If you would like to file comments in the proceeding, or if you have questions about the foreign sponsorship identification requirements in general, please contact an attorney in our Media practice group.

Categories: Media