Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.) has introduced a bill that would require on-air disclosures of content from foreign entities.
The Foreign Entities Reform Act of 2018 (FERA) would amend the Communications Act to require broadcast, cable and satellite companies to disclose through the duration of the content when it has been supplied by a registered foreign agent, like RT, the Russia-backed video content that the Intelligence Community has concluded tried to influence the 2016 election.
RT, formerly Russian Television, has had to register as such a foreign agent, for example, under pressure from the Justice Department, a point Eshoo made in talking about the need for the legislation.
That means RT stories must be conspicuously labeled as being disseminated by agents of a foreign government. It also means RT has to provide information on income and expenditures, supplemented every six months.
The Eshoo bill would enhance those disclosures with a continuous label.
In a U.S. intelligence report on alleged Russian interference issued in January 2017, RT was identified as an arm of Russia's state-run propaganda machine that favored President-elect Donald Trump and provided negative coverage of Hillary Clinton.
“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,” said Eshoo, who has also pushed for enhanced broadcast and cable disclosures of the backers of U.S. political ads. “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.”
Related: Eshoo Wants FCC Investigation of RT, Sputnik Broadcasts
Eshoo's bill would essentially apply the current FCC disclosure rules for U.S. political ads--publishing the source and funding of those ads--to content from a registered foreign agent--like RT.
The bill would also require those foreign agents to make periodic disclosures of their relationship with their foreign principals, as well as the financial links between them.
Eshoo pointed out that she has pressed the FCC over issues involving RT programming and its election-meddling.