Eshoo Leads Effort for Transparency of Russian State-Sponsored Television

May 8th, 2017

WASHINGTON, D.C.— Congresswoman Anna Eshoo (D-CA) sent a letter to Ajit Pai, Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) on May 3rd, urging him to consider applying broadcast transparency requirements to state-sponsored media outlets like RT, formerly known as Russia Today. The letter, also signed by Reps. Mike Doyle, David Cicilline, Judy Chu, Jimmy Panetta, Jerry McNerney, Mark Takano, Doris Matsui, Peter Welch, Eric Swalwell and Dave Loebsack, follows a declassified report from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence that found RT played a role in the propaganda efforts of Russia to influence the outcome of the 2016 U.S. election.

“It is a fundamental principle in the American broadcast system that the public has a right to know who is behind programming on our public airwaves that is designed to persuade them,” the Members wrote in the letter.  “Given RT’s efforts to hide its true intentions, we believe it is critical for the American people to have a clearer picture of the true source of this channel’s programming.”

The letter urges Chairman Pai to apply the FCC’s sponsorship identification rules and public file ownership disclosure requirements to state-sponsored channels like RT, which is broadcast over the air in certain television markets.

RT has a history of meddling in elections dating back to 2012 when it pushed anti-U.S. messaging to undermine trust in U.S. democracy. The U.S. intelligence community concluded that it influenced the 2016 elections by serving as a platform for Kremlin messaging to Russian and international audiences. The media outlet has most recently come under fire after it was reported that former Trump National Security Adviser Michael Flynn received over $45,000 for attending a gala in Moscow and giving an RT interview.

The FCC’s sponsorship identification rules require on-air written or verbal announcements identifying the sponsor of commercial, political, or controversial content.  In addition, broadcast licensees are required to maintain a public inspection file containing information such as station ownership information.

The text of the letter can be found here.

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