US media is reporting that while the US has recently banned Russian state-backed outlet RT America, the tiny radio station WZHF is still broadcasting Russian propaganda to Beltway listeners. WZHF is described as the flagship of Russia’s efforts to harness America’s radio airwaves to sell the Kremlin’s point of view. According to a Washington Post report:
March 7, 2022 WZHF, a former Spanish-language station 11 miles east of the White House in Maryland’s Capitol Heights, is the flagship of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s effort to harness America’s radio airwaves to sell the Kremlin’s point of view. Despite periodic legal and political challenges, and the imposition of sanctions against Russia for its invasion of Ukraine, the station has stayed on the air, broadcasting its Kremlin-approved message. […] Sputnik doesn’t own WZHF, nor could it under federal regulations that bar foreign governments from controlling U.S. broadcast licenses. […] But the Kremlin found another way to get on the air. WZHF has been licensed to a New York company, Way Broadcasting, since 2011, according to FCC records. But Way appears to be a largely passive owner. In 2017, it agreed to lease the station’s airtime to a second party, RM Broadcasting of Jupiter, Fla. RM, in turn, sold all of the station’s airtime to Rossiya Segodnya and Sputnik. RM made a similar deal in 2020 with Alpine Broadcasting to place Sputnik’s programs on Alpine’s three stations in the Kansas City area.
Read the full report here.
The Washington Post report notes that although some discussions on WZHF/Sputnik Radio are apolitical, many radio hosts offer negative commentary about America’s perceived flaws and tend to justify Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The report also says that since 2018, RM Broadcasting has been registered under the Foreign Agents Registration Acts, which requires it to file federal disclosures about Rossiya Segodnya’s payments. Rossiya Segodnya is the Kremlin-controlled media agency that directed RT America until its recent ban. In 2021 alone, Rossiya Segodnya spent over $3 million in the US, according to Foreign Agents Registration Act records. A 2017 report by the DFRLab, a US think tank, found that the presidential decree that founded Rossiya Segodnya described the outlet’s purpose as “reporting the state policy of the Russian Federation, and public life in the Russian Federation, abroad.”
The Global Influence Operations Report recently reported that the European Union banned RT and Sputnik over disinformation on Ukraine.