FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Monday, May 13, 2019
Court Finds RM Broadcasting Must Register as a Foreign Agent
U.S. District Court Judge Robin L. Rosenberg has ruled that a Florida-based company, RM Broadcasting LLC (RM Broadcasting), was acting as an agent of a foreign principal and must register as such under the Foreign Agents Registration Act of 1938 (FARA).
The Department of Justice contended in a civil counterclaim that RM Broadcasting has been acting as an agent of the the Federal State Unitary Enterprise Rossiya Segodnya International Information Agency (Rossiya Segodnya), a Russian state-owned media enterprise created by Vladimir Putin to advance Russian interests abroad. The litigation marked the first FARA civil enforcement action since 1991. Assistant Attorney General for National Security John C. Demers and U.S. Attorney Ariana Fajardo Orshan for the Southern District of Florida made the announcement.
“The American people have a right to know if a foreign flag waves behind speech broadcast in the United States,” said Assistant Attorney General Demers. “Our concern is not the content of the speech but providing transparency about the true identity of the speaker. This case shows that the Department can and will utilize all of its tools to bring transparency to efforts by foreign entities to influence the American public and our government, and demonstrates our renewed effort to enforce FARA rigorously.”
“While the right to free speech remains paramount to our democracy,” U.S. Attorney Ariana Fajardo Orshan said. “FARA ensures that the American public is fully cognizant of the true source of the messages broadcast in the United States. Armed with full information, Americans may properly evaluate the value of the speech they hear. As such, FARA is a fundamental tool in our continuing efforts to defend our democracy.”
In November 2017, RM Broadcasting and Rossiya Segodnya entered into a services agreement pursuant to which RM Broadcasting would provide for the broadcast of Rossiya Segodnya’s “Sputnik” radio programs on AM radio channel 1390 WZHF in the Washington, D.C. region. Under this agreement, RM Broadcasting could not alter Rossiya Segodnya’s radio programs in any way. As the services agreement established Rossiya Segodnya’s direction and control over RM Broadcasting, the FARA Unit of the National Security Division informed RM Broadcasting that it was acting as a publicity agent and an information-service employee of Rossiya Segodnya and was required to register as an agent of a foreign principal.
RM Broadcasting initiated the proceeding in the Southern District of Florida seeking a declaratory judgment that it did not have to register as an agent of a foreign principal. The Department responded by filing a counterclaim seeking an injunction to require RM Broadcasting to register. Earlier this week, the court granted the Department’s motion for judgment on the pleadings. A final judgment directing RM Broadcasting to register under FARA is expected.
This case was handled by Assistant U.S. Attorney Matthew J. Feeley and Trial Attorney Nicholas Hunter of the National Security Division’s Counterintelligence and Export Control Section.
The purpose of FARA is to protect the national defense, internal security, and foreign relations of the United States by requiring public disclosure by persons engaging in political activities and other activities for or on behalf of foreign governments, foreign political parties and other foreign principals so that the Government and the people of the United States may be informed of the identity of such persons and may apprise their statements and actions in the light of their associations and activities.
National Security Division (NSD)
USAO – Florida, Southern
Press Release Number:
(Source: Washington Post via Mike Hansgen)
Sputnik radio, a media organization funded by the Russian government with offices around the world, broadcasts from a studio in downtown Washington blocks from the White House. It airs talk shows hosted by, among others, Lee Stranahan, a former Breitbart News reporter, and Brian Becker of the far-left ANSWER Coalition. Its website recently featured a discussion of Russia’s “Great Society” and a chat titled “Is Doing Business in Russia Really That Difficult?” The Weekly Standard once likened the experience of listening to Sputnik to “being immersed in some menacing alternate history timeline: It’s like ‘The Man in the High Castle,’ but for Cold War kids and with real-world implications.” And it has caught the ear of federal authorities.
Since U.S. intelligence agencies concluded that Russia attempted to interfere in the 2016 presidential election, the Department of Justice has tried to compel Sputnik’s associates to register as foreign agents under the Foreign Agents Registration Act, or FARA. So far, those efforts have mostly been successful: Rossiya Segodnya, the Russian news agency that funds Sputnik, has registered under FARA, as has the managing member of the company that owns 105.5 FM, one of two frequencies that Sputnik broadcasts on in Washington. (Before Sputnik, 105.5 FM played bluegrass.)
There is one holdout: Arnold Ferolito, owner of RM Broadcasting, which leases airtime to Sputnik on 1390 AM in Washington.Not only has he refused to register his company as a foreign agent, the semiretired 76-year-old Florida man is suing the Justice Department over the request. “I’m not being caught up in somebody’s agenda. I’m a business guy,” he told me. “No one gave me anything unless I fought for it. There’s a principle here. In the United States, a person should be able to do business without government interference. … It’s nuts that you have to do something like this.”
In his complaint, filed last fall in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida, Ferolito contends RM Broadcasting doesn’t have “any kind of joint-venture relationship whatsoever with Rossiya Segodnya,” and that the two entities are simply engaged in “an arms-length commercial business transaction.”
The Justice Department isn’t buying that. In its countersuit, it alleged that Ferolito broadcasts Sputnik news under “the direction and control of Rossiya Segodnya” and is an “information-service employee.”[…]
(Source: NASA History Archives)
Sputnik and The Dawn of the Space Age
History changed on October 4, 1957, when the Soviet Union successfully launched Sputnik I. The world’s first artificial satellite was about the size of a beach ball (58 cm.or 22.8 inches in diameter), weighed only 83.6 kg. or 183.9 pounds, and took about 98 minutes to orbit the Earth on its elliptical path. That launch ushered in new political, military, technological, and scientific developments. While the Sputnik launch was a single event, it marked the start of the space age and the U.S.-U.S.S.R space race.
The story begins in 1952, when the International Council of Scientific Unions decided to establish July 1, 1957, to December 31, 1958, as the International Geophysical Year (IGY)because the scientists knew that the cycles of solar activity would be at a high point then. In October 1954, the council adopted a resolution calling for artificial satellites to be launched during the IGY to map the Earth’s surface.
In July 1955, the White House announced plans to launch an Earth-orbiting satellite for the IGY and solicited proposals from various Government research agencies to undertake development. In September 1955, the Naval Research Laboratory’s Vanguard proposal was chosen to represent the U.S. during the IGY.
The Sputnik launch changed everything. As a technical achievement, Sputnik caught the world’s attention and the American public off-guard. Its size was more impressive than Vanguard’s intended 3.5-pound payload. In addition, the public feared that the Soviets’ ability to launch satellites also translated into the capability to launch ballistic missiles that could carry nuclear weapons from Europe to the U.S. Then the Soviets struck again; on November 3, Sputnik II was launched, carrying a much heavier payload, including a dog named Laika.
Immediately after the Sputnik I launch in October, the U.S. Defense Department responded to the political furor by approving funding for another U.S. satellite project. As a simultaneous alternative to Vanguard, Wernher von Braun and his Army Redstone Arsenal team began work on the Explorer project.
On January 31, 1958, the tide changed, when the United States successfully launched Explorer I. This satellite carried a small scientific payload that eventually discovered the magnetic radiation belts around the Earth, named after principal investigator James Van Allen. The Explorer program continued as a successful ongoing series of lightweight, scientifically useful spacecraft.
The Sputnik launch also led directly to the creation of National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). In July 1958, Congress passed the National Aeronautics and Space Act (commonly called the “Space Act”), which created NASA as of October 1, 1958 from the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA) and other government agencies.
More on Sputnik
Also contributor, Colin Anderton, has posted a vintage Radio Moscow recording on his website, Apollo Audio Highlights.
(Source: Sputnik News via Sheldon Harvey)
“Sputnik Radio begins broadcasting in Washington DC on the FM bandwidth, bringing its programming to FM listeners across the metropolitan area for the very first time.
Sputnik Radio broadcasts, ranging from news programs to talk shows and financial analysis, are now available on 105.5 FM, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.”
Thanks for the tip, Sheldon!
This isn’t the first time Russian state media has moved to the DC market.
Does anyone remember back in 2011 when the Voice of Russia started broadcasting to the DC audience?
Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Richard Langley, who writes:
Yesterday, 4 October, was the anniversary of the Soviet Union’s launch of Sputnik I, the first artificial Earth satellite. The launch heralded the beginning of the space age. Sputnik I’s Doppler-shifted radio transmissions on 20.005 and 40.002 MHz led to the development of the U.S. Navy Navigation Satellite System (Transit) and the equivalent Soviet system (Tsikada) and, eventually, to GPS and GLONASS and the other modern global navigation satellite systems.
The Sputnik I radio signals were picked up by many shortwave listeners. The 20 MHz signal was close to that of WWV and so was easy to find. And, apparently, WWV turned off its 20 MHz transmitter during some of Sputnik I’s passes over the U.S. so as not to interfere with reception.
There are several good sites on the Web with information about Sputnik I and its radio signals including:
Sometime in high school, I received a card from Radio Moscow celebrating the launch of Sputnik I [see above]. Perhaps it was issued in 1967 for the 10th anniversary of the launch.
Richard: You never cease to amaze me! Thank you so much for sharing all of this Sputnik I information and resources! That gorgeous QSL Card is perhaps my favorite design from Radio Moscow.