US court knocks down FCC rule that would make broadcasters check sponsor identities

Broadcasters in the US are not compelled to check their sponsors’ identities, a US appeals court has decided.

In March, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) implemented new rules for leasing agreements that would force broadcasters to disclose sponsorship from foreign governments. The rule change was announced shortly after the Russian invasion of Ukraine began as western governments looked to crack down on Russian influence on media in the US. 

The US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia said that the FCC had claimed “that the Chinese and Russian governments have been secretly leasing air time to broadcast propaganda on American radio.” 

However, Judge Justin Walker delivered the verdict that “the FCC cannot require radio broadcasters to check federal sources to verify sponsors’ identities.”

Reacting to the decision, FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel: “The principle that the public has a right to know the identity of those who solicit their support is a fundamental and long-standing tenet of broadcasting … Consumers deserve to trust that public airwaves aren’t being leased without their knowledge to private foreign actors.”

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