U.S. implements new rules requiring broadcasters to identify foreign-government material

FILE PHOTO: The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) logo is seen before the FCC Net Neutrality hearing in Washington
FILE PHOTO: The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) logo is seen before the FCC Net Neutrality hearing in Washington February 26, 2015. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas/File Photo

March 15, 2022

By David Shepardson

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -The U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) said on Tuesday that new requirements mandating broadcasters disclose when foreign governments or their representatives lease time on their airwaves take effect today.

The FCC unanimously adopted the new rules in April 2021. The commission said the new rules are effective immediately for new leasing agreements and need to be implemented within about six months for existing agreements.

The rules require disclosure at the time of a broadcast if a foreign governmental entity paid a radio or television station, directly or indirectly, to air material. Prior rules do not specify when and how foreign government sponsorship should be publicly disclosed.

The issue has taken on new urgency in the aftermath of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel said Tuesday that “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.”

Last year, Rosenworcel said commission reports of foreign government-sponsored programming had multiplied in recent years.

“We know that foreign entities are purchasing time on broadcast stations in markets across the country, including Chinese government-sponsored programming and Russian government-sponsored programming right here in our nation’s capital,” she said in April 2021.

Russian media outlet RT America told employees this month it was ending production and laying off most staff, according to a memo reported by CNN.

Earlier this month, DirecTV, the largest satellite provider in the United States, said it was planning to drop RT America in response to Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.

(Reporting by David ShepardsonEditing by Chizu Nomiyama and Frank Jack Daniel)