FCC rules requiring radio and television stations to broadcast disclosures for programming provided by foreign governmental entities go into effect today over the objection of some broadcast groups. Broadcasters are required not only to fully comply moving forward, but must also ensure that their existing airtime lease agreements come into compliance as soon as reasonably possible.

These new rules require broadcasters to identify sponsors for programming content aired on a station, pursuant to a lease of airtime, if the sponsor qualifies as a “foreign governmental entity.”

Let’s break that down:

Who meets the definition of a “foreign governmental entity”?

This includes governments of foreign countries, foreign political parties, certain agents of foreign principals, and U.S.-based foreign media outlets.

How will you know if you’re dealing with a “foreign governmental entity”?

We recommend following these steps:

  1. Inform the programmer of your foreign sponsorship disclosure obligations;
  2. Directly ask the programmer whether they fall into one of the above categories;
  3. Ask the programmer whether anyone involved in producing/distributing the programming qualifies as a foreign governmental entity;
  4. 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
  5. Document and maintain a record of steps 1-4 above in case of future FCC inquiry.

What are you required to say, and when?

“The [following/preceding] programming was [sponsored, paid for, or furnished,] either in whole or in part, by [name of foreign governmental entity] on behalf of [name of foreign country].”

This message must be read (or displayed by television stations) at both the beginning and end of the programming, unless either: (a) it is five minutes or less in total, in which case, it can be provided at either the beginning or conclusion, or (b) the program exceeds sixty minutes in duration, which would require it to be read at regular intervals, at least once every hour.

Whether or not these new rules will remain in place is still unclear, however, as an appeal has been filed jointly by the NAB, MMTC and NABOB. As always, we will keep you updated here with any developments.

You can read the original order at this link.

If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to call us here at FHH.