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FCC Sets Deadlines in Updated Foreign ID Proposal

The commission is trying again after its first effort was tossed by an appeals court

The FCC has set deadlines for comments about its latest proposed sponsorship ID requirements.

Earlier this year a U.S. appeals court vacated the commission’s first attempt to tighten the rules regarding disclosure of foreign program sponsorship.

Under that plan, broadcasters would have had to check two federal sources to determine a sponsor’s identity. The FCC has been concerned about countries like China and Russia secretly securing airtime to broadcast propaganda. The plan had passed the commission unanimously.

But the National Association of Broadcasters argued that putting the onus on radio and TV stations to investigate whether ads and infomercials were paid for by foreign entities was arbitrary, capricious and an unconstitutional solution to a nonexistent problem.

The FCC said verification fell within reasonable diligence and its general authority to set appropriate rules.

After the appeals court blocked the change, the commission last month released another notice of proposed rulemaking, seeking to “fortify the rules in the wake of the court’s decision.”

A broadcaster would have to certify that it had told the program source (the “lessee”) about the foreign sponsorship ID rules and obtained, or tried to obtain, a certification from them stating whether it is or isn’t a “foreign governmental entity.”  The lessee would have to submit a certification in response.

The FCC also asked for comment about an alternative approach, raised as a hypothetical by the D.C. Circuit Court. If a lessee states that it isn’t a foreign governmental entity, the station must obtain documentation from them, like a screenshot, showing that the lessee’s name does not appear on either of the two federal government websites that the FCC has cited as reference points.

You can read the proposal in detail. Comments in the FCC system are due by Dec. 19 and replies by Jan. 3. Reference MB Docket No. 20-299.