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FCC wants U.S. broadcasters to identify foreign-government sponsors of programs

Signage is seen at the headquarters of the Federal Communications Commission in Washington, D.C., U.S., August 29, 2020. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly/Files

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) said Tuesday it had voted unanimously to advance rules that would require new public disclosures of broadcast television and radio content sponsored or provided by foreign governments.

The proposed requirements would 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. Current rules do not specify when and how foreign government sponsorship should be publicly disclosed.

The proposal said the FCC believes 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.”

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai last month cited content coming from China and Russia as a rationale to “to update our rules and shed more sunlight on these practices.”

FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel, a Democrat, said the commission was “awash in reports that foreign actors are attempting to influence our political process and democratic elections in the United States.”

She added “foreign entities are purchasing time on broadcast stations in markets across the country, including Russian government-sponsored programming right here our nation’s capital.”

Democrats in Congress have been pushing the FCC to act for several years.

FCC Commissioner Geoffrey Starks, a Democrat, said the “public must have the full context in order to be informed and make their own decisions in separating truth from disinformation.”

Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and David Gregorio