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FCC Proposes Modifications to Foreign ID Requirements

The commission is working towards stronger foreign sponsorship identification rules

The Federal Communications Commission is taking new steps to strengthen its process for identifying foreign government entities after a U.S. appeals court nixed the commission’s double-verification mandate.

In the wake of the ruling in July — where it was determined that the commission lacked the authority to require licensees to independently check two federal databases to verify if the lessee is a foreign government — the FCC has released a Second Notice of Proposed Rulemaking. This notice proposes a new certification process with standardized language that broadcasters and lessees can use to show that appropriate inquiries have been made in determining whether a foreign government entity has sponsored any programming. 

“The principle that the public has a right to know the identity of those who use our airwaves to solicit our support is a long-standing tenet of broadcasting and I continue to stand by that,” said Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel. “This proposal will help strengthen the process for identifying foreign governments broadcasting in the United States and fill in the gaps left in the wake of the D.C. Circuit’s recent ruling.” 

[Related: “What to Know Now About Foreign Sponsorship ID“]

If adopted, the new FCC proposal would require a broadcaster to certify that it has informed its lessee of the foreign sponsorship identification rules and work to obtain a certification from its lessee as to whether or not the lessee is a foreign governmental entity;

Further, if a lessee states it is not a foreign governmental entity, a broadcaster needs to obtain documentation showing that the lessee’s name does not appear on the two federal government websites referenced in the commission’s April 2021 order.

[Related: “Court Nixes FCC’s Double-Verification Mandate on Foreign Sponsorship“]

Some things, however, were not struck down by the court in July, and the bulk of the earlier agreed upon foreign sponsorship identification requirements remain in effect — including having a broadcaster undertake a five-step process to determine a sponsor’s status whenever they lease out airtime.

A sponsor’s status can be by checked using the Department of Justice’s Foreign Agents Registration Act website and the FCC’s U.S.-based foreign media outlets reports.

Comments on the rulemaking are due 30 days after publication in the Federal Register with reply comments due 15 days after that.