Eshoo Introduces Legislation Targeting Foreign Agents’ Propaganda
Ahead of Mueller Testimony, Eshoo Legislation Requires Media Outlets to Disclose Source of State-Sponsored Programming
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, Congresswoman Anna G. Eshoo (D-CA) reintroduced the Foreign Entities Reform Act of 2019 (FERA), which requires transparency of foreign-government backed propaganda distributed to American consumers.
Last week, OpenSecrets.org reported that RM Broadcasting, a Russian government supported company, spent $1.4 million to air Kremlin propaganda in Washington, D.C. over the last two years. RM Broadcasting is currently required to register as a “foreign agent.” FERA would require broadcast, cable, and satellite companies to publicly disclose when foreign agents distribute content to Americans. The bill also requires broadcasters to announce when content is backed by a registered foreign entity.
“The American people have a right to know who is behind the programming in our public media,” Rep. Eshoo said. “The recent revelation of Russian sponsored propaganda in the Washington, D.C. region highlights the urgent need to provide the American people with a clearer picture of the sources of programming on radio and television. My bill will protect our democracy by empowering an informed electorate to better discern the motivations for programming and hindering foreign-led misinformation campaigns.”
Currently, American content providers are required to publish information regarding the source and funding of political advertisements to the public. The Federal Communications 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.
FERA would apply similar disclosure principles and reporting requirements for broadcasters, cable, and satellite entities when they air or transmit content coming from foreign agents registered with the Department of Justice, as required by the Federal Agents Registration Act (FARA).
Rep. Eshoo has written to the FCC five times regarding issues arising over-the-air television broadcast of Russian-backed propaganda. Russia 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. Volume I of the Report on the Investigation into Russian Interference in the 2016 Presidential Election (the Mueller Report) concludes that Russia influenced the 2016 elections using propaganda.