Nets: Long-Form Ads Don't Fall Under FCC Enhanced Disclosure Decision

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The network affiliates want the FCC to "clarify" that its new enhanced sponsorship ID rules for foreign-owned government-supplied programming does not apply to long-form advertising (infomercials).

The FCC in April voted to boost broadcasters' disclosure requirements for programming on airtime leased by a foreign entity. The move comes amid heightened focus on disinformation campaigns and despite some pushback from broadcasters, who argue the FCC is adding regs to an already overregulated service. The FCC's foreign disclosure rules were last updated in 1963.

The updated rules require broadcasters both to provide clear and uniform disclosures at "reasonable intervals" when airing leased content sponsored by a foreign government, but also take a number of steps to determine if leased airtime is being used for such programming. It also requires broadcasters to place copies of their disclosures in their public files.

Representatives of the ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC affiliate associations met with the chief of the Media Bureau and other top FCC staffers earlier this month to press home their point that the item deals with leased airtime and was never meant to extend to advertisements, whatever their length.

They said ads are covered by existing FCC disclosure provisions and that to add the enhanced disclosure requirements "would be unduly burdensome on the affiliate television stations, which broadcast thousands of short-form and long-form advertisements every day."

They are seeking a clarification of the scope of the rules "simply to avoid misconceptions."

The enhanced rules make clear that traditional short-form ads are not considered leased time, but it is not as clear on whether it considers, say, a half-hour infomercial supplied by an advertiser to fit the "third party controls and programs a discrete block of time on a broadcast station" definition if that infomercial were supplied by a foreign government entity.

The item does say: "We find that our focus on situations where there are leasing agreements between a station and a third party will narrow the application of the disclosure rules appropriately, and ensure that the new disclosure obligations do not extend to situations where there is no evidence of foreign government sponsored programming."

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.