20-299: NCE/LPFM stations voluntarily carrying foreign broadcasters as a part of their educational objective should be exempt from proposed disclosure messages.

REC Networks has filed comments with the FCC addressing the Commission’s Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to require that broadcast stations that are provided programming from various foreign entities must disclose on the air that a foreign government has provided the programming regardless of whether the station was paid to carry the programming or not.

REC states that commercial broadcasters have a financial motivation to sell airtime to anyone, including foreign broadcasters. REC cites media broker RM Broadcasting, LLC, which has a contract with the Rossiya Segodnya Information Agency to purchase unlimited airtime on WZHF, Capital Heights, MD to rebroadcast English-language Sputnik Radio programming to be heard in the Washington DC Capitol area.  REC also cites the attempt by GLR Southern California to carry programming through Mexican station XEWW (690), Rosarito, BC in Mandarin.  That deal met objection by New Tang Dynasty LPFM station KQEV-LP, who stated that the principals on the XEWW deal are related to Phoenix Media, which allegedly has significant connections with the Chinese Communist Government.  NTD is operated by practitioners of Falun Gong.  Falun Gong was banned by the Chinese government and the NTD LPFM stations (as well as the NTD television networks) are anti-Communist.  The FCC denied GLR's Section 325 application.

In Comments, REC states that the main concern here should be stations that receive remuneration such as the cases involving Russia and China.  NCE stations carry foreign public broadcasters such as the BBC, Deutsche Welle and Radio France International at no remuneration or in the case of the BBC, the NCE station pays American Public Media to carry the programming. 

REC states that for NCE stations, their carriage of these broadcasts are not motivated by profits, but instead, are motivated by their educational objective to further expose Americans to the world that is around them and to reduce isolationism and xenophobia. NCE stations are further burdened because they would have to do extensive research to determine whether the provider of the program or any contributing producer is listed on the Department of Justice’s registry of foreign agents, thus discouraging foreign public broadcasting programming from airing on US stations leading to further isolationism.

REC notes that since the Communications Act prohibits any party from purchasing time on a NCE (including LPFM) station, that NCE stations should be exempt from these disclosure requirements.  Allowing NCE stations to increase global awareness as a part of their educational objective is in the public interest and those educational activities should not be foreclosed on because of a couple of bad actor nations and domestic entities seeking to profit off of it. 

A copy of REC’s filing can be found here:

Comments in this proceeding are due on Monday, December 28 (this was extended from December 24 under an Executive Order that declared the 24th as a non-work day at the Federal Government).  Reply comments are due January 25, 2021.