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Eshoo Introduces Legislation Requiring Transparency of Foreign Agents

March 20th, 2018

Eshoo Legislation Would Require American Media Outlets to Disclose Source of State-Sponsored Programming like RT (Formerly Russia Today)

Intelligence Community Concluded in 2017 that RT influenced 2016 Elections

WASHINGTON, D.C.— Today Congresswoman Anna G. Eshoo (D-CA) introduced the Foreign Entities Reform Act of 2018 (FERA), legislation that amends the Communications Act to provide additional disclosure requirements for the content of any entities registered as “foreign agents” with the Department of Justice. The bill would require broadcast, cable, and satellite companies to publicly disclose the source of registered foreign state-based content, such as RT, that is being distributed to American consumers. It would also require announcements for the duration of the content when any of the broadcast is backed by a registered foreign entity.

“It’s a fundamental principle in the American media system that the public has a right to know who is behind the programming on our public airwaves,” Eshoo said. “Given RT’s efforts to hide its true intentions over American airwaves, it is critical for the American people to have a clearer picture of the true source of all programming from foreign agents, particularly state-based propaganda. An informed electorate is essential in a democracy, and providing this information will empower citizens to think critically and decide for themselves who is speaking to them and whether they can trust the information carried over our most foundational media outlets.”

Background

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) currently has “political file” requirements for broadcast, cable, and satellite transmissions. American content providers are required to publish information regarding the source and funding of political advertisements to the public. The Commission also requires broadcasters to follow “sponsorship identification” rules, which requires them to announce on air and publicly disclose the source of any paid-for broadcasts.

Using that same rationale, FERA would apply similar disclosure principles and reporting requirements for broadcasters, cable, or satellite entities when they air or transmit content coming from foreign agents registered under the Federal Agents Registration Act (FARA).

FARA requires persons acting as agents of foreign principals in a political or quasi-political capacity to make periodic public disclosure of their relationship with the foreign principal, as well as activities, receipts and disbursements in support of those activities.

Eshoo has written to FCC Chairman Pai five times regarding issues arising over-the-air television broadcast of RT, formerly Russia Today. RT has a history of meddling in elections dating back to 2012 when it pushed anti-U.S. messaging to undermine trust in U.S. democracy. The U.S. intelligence community concluded in January 2017 that RT influenced the 2016 elections by serving as a platform for Kremlin messaging to Russian and international audiences.

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