The Federal Communications Commission issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking which proposes to adopt new rules that would require broadcasters to disclose when they broadcast material that that is provided, or paid for, by a foreign government.
Under the FCC's current rules, broadcasters are required to include a sponsorship identification whenever a station has been compensated for broadcasting specific material -- but stations are not required to determine whether the source of the material is a foreign government or to disclose that fact. In its NPR, the FCC stated, "We believe, however, that the American people deserve to know when a foreign government has paid for programming, or furnished it for free, so that viewers and listeners can better evaluate the value and accuracy of such programming." The goal of the new rules are to "eliminate any possibly ambiguity" about the source of the programming.
The new rule would cover material provided by governments of foreign countries, foreign political parties, agents of foreign principals, foreign missions, or US-based foreign media outlets.
If a broadcaster airs material provided by a foreign government, the proposed rule requires that the following disclosure be included: "The [following/preceding] programming was paid for, or furnished, either in whole or in part, by [name of foreign government entity] on behalf of [name of foreign country]."
The proposed rule also includes requirements for how the disclosure must be included. For example, in short form video programming, the disclosure must be at least four percent of the picture height, be on screen for at least four seconds, and be at the beginning and the end of the program.
How does this impact advertising? The FCC's sponsor identification rules apply to advertising, so foreign-government sponsored advertising should be covered by these rules. But, what's not clear to me at this point is whether these rules are intended to cover brands that are owned in whole or in part by foreign governments. For example, is a television commercial for a foreign airline, that is owned by a foreign government, required to include the disclosure? It will be interesting to see how this issue plays out during the rulemaking process.
“American TV viewers and radio listeners have the right to know if a foreign government is behind the programming they are consuming" -- FCC Chairman Ajit Pai