In October 2022, I noted in an article that many broadcasters were totally confused by the FCC’s rules requiring that they seek certifications as to whether or not a foreign government is behind anyone buying programming time on a broadcast station.  In our 2022 article, we noted that, even though broadcasters did not fully understand the existing rule, the FCC was considering expanding that requirement to require use of a specific form to obtain these certifications from program buyers.  From notices filed with the FCC recently, it appears that there have been several meetings with the Commission and representatives of the broadcasting community about these proposed enhanced certifications, making it appear that the FCC is nearing a decision.  It appears that the new certifications, if adopted, will be very cumbersome, particularly for the unsophisticated program buyers who are likely to be many of the buyers of program time on small market stations.  These buyers are likely to find the certification process somewhat intimidating, and may even be scared off from buying any broadcast programming time as a result.  We thought we should take another look at what is already required and what is now being proposed.

Currently, the certifications that broadcasters must obtain from a program buyer must indicate that the programmer is not a “foreign government entity,” a term that includes any foreign government or foreign-government owned entity, an agent of a foreign government, or someone who has been paid by a foreign government to produce the program.  As we noted (see our articles here and here), the rules requiring these certifications went into effect on March 15, 2022 for any new agreements effective after that date, and September 15, 2022 for obtaining certifications from programmers who were already on the air as of March 15.  They cover not only those who buy program time on a broadcast station, but also those that provide program time free to broadcasters with the understanding that the programming will be aired.  The certifications do not cover programming that the broadcaster buys (either for money or through barter – including by giving the programming supplier advertising time that the programmer can resell in exchange for the programming).  And they are not required for spot advertising buys. Continue Reading FCC Still Reviewing Plan to Expand Broadcasters’ Obligations to Obtain Certifications from All Program Buyers on their Connection to Foreign Governments – What is Being Proposed? 

With so much focus on the upcoming regulatory fee deadline, broadcasters may well overlook another more imminent deadline – Thursday, September 15 is the deadline for broadcasters to have assured themselves that no buyer of program time on their stations is a foreign government or an agent of a foreign government.  As we wrote here, the NAB successfully obtained a court decision eliminating the obligation for broadcasters to verify that no buyer of program time is listed in the Department of Justice’s Foreign Agents Registration Act database or on the FCC’s database of foreign government video programmers.  However, the underlying obligation of licensees to obtain certifications from buyers of program time on their stations confirming that they are not a foreign government, or an agent of a foreign government, remains in place.

New agreements for the sale of program time should have, since March 15, contained representations from the program buyer that they are not a foreign government or a representative of a foreign government, and that no foreign government has paid the programmer to produce the programs or to place it on broadcast stations.  Programming provided to the station for free with the expectation that it will be broadcast should also be confirmed as not coming from a foreign government or an agent of a foreign government.  By this Thursday (September 15), stations need to verify that the providers of programming under agreements that were in existence before March 15 are not foreign governments or their agents.
Continue Reading Don’t Forget September 15 Deadline For Broadcasters to Assure That Buyers of Program Time Are Not Foreign Governments or Their Agents

When providing briefings on FCC issues at a number of broadcast conventions in the past few months, I find that broadcasters are most often surprised by the relatively new FCC rule that requires that they verify that any buyer of programming time on their station is not an agent of a foreign government.  This week, the burden that this rule (about which we wrote here) imposed on broadcasters was eased, when a Court overturned one aspect of the obligations imposed by the FCC.

The FCC rule, Section73.1212(j), is designed to ensure that all broadcast programming that is paid for or sponsored by a foreign government or one of its agents is specifically identified on the air as having foreign government backing.  The FCC required specific wording for on-air identifications for this programming paid for or produced by foreign governments or those that they finance.  In addition, broadcast stations are required to get assurances in writing from all parties who pay for programming on their stations that the programmer is not a foreign government or an agent of any such government.  The FCC rule went further, requiring that each station verify by checking FCC and DOJ databases that any programmer who certified that they were not a foreign government agent was in fact not a government agent.  It was that last requirement – the requirement to check DOJ and FCC databases – that the Court rejected this week.
Continue Reading Court Overturns Part of FCC Requirement that Broadcasters Confirm that Programmers are Not Foreign Government Agents