FCC Jumps into Political AI Content Arena

Posted on May 30th, 2024 by

In a May 22nd news release, the FCC announced that FCC Chair Jessica Rosenworcel has circulated a new proposal with the other four FCC commissioners on whether the FCC should require broadcasters to include disclosures in political ads when they contain AI-generated content.  Commissioner Carr immediately labeled the effort ill-advised and without authority, raising concerns that the effort would impose new regulation on broadcasters, but not online providers, and create an unlevel playing field.

The circulated proposal must come before the agency for a vote and, if approved, would commence a rulemaking proceeding with the receipt of comments from broadcasters and the public.  Final action would follow, with a vote by the Commissioners on whether to approve any new AI disclosure regulations. Given the time constraints, new rules would likely not become effective to have any impact on national elections this fall.

The news release provides some details, indicating that a proposed rule would require an on-air disclosure and written disclosure in broadcasters’ political files when there is AI-generated content in political ads. The disclosure requirements would apply to both candidate and issue advertisements.  Defining AI-generated content – a complicated and nuanced issue — would also be necessary.

The news release points to the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act as providing the Commission with authority regarding political advertising, and protecting the public from false, misleading, or deceptive programming.  State legislatures across the country have passed legislation addressing AI-content in political advertising, creating the potential for conflict between those laws and the FCC’s requirements.  Efforts to exclude broadcasters from liability under state laws could be frustrated by the FCC’s disclosure requirements.