Members Urge FCC to Investigate Russian Government Radio’s use of U.S. Airwaves during 2016 Election
September 19, 2017
Washington, D.C. – Following recent press reports that Sputnik, a radio network funded by the Russian government allegedly used U.S. airwaves to influence the 2016 presidential election, Representatives Mike Doyle (D-PA), Anna Eshoo (D-CA), and Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ) urged Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Ajit Pai in a letter to investigate the matter and enforce the public interest standard for licensed stations that broadcast the network. All three members are senior members of the Energy and Commerce Committee, which has jurisdiction over the FCC.
Several reports allege that Sputnik used U.S. airwaves to influence the 2016 presidential election by spreading false news reports attempting to undermine U.S. democracy, including reports that imply the U.S. election results were hacked or rigged.
“Recent reports suggest that Sputnik was used as part of the Kremlin’s efforts to influence the 2016 election,” the members wrote to Chairman Pai. “In Washington, D.C., listeners need only tune their radios to 105.5 FM to hear the Russian government’s effort to influence U.S. policy. Disturbingly, this means the Kremlin’s propaganda messages are being broadcast over a license granted by the FCC.”
The Communications Act of 1934 gives the FCC power to take action to ensure broadcast licenses act in the public interest, convenience and necessity. In the letter, the members ask Pai if the FCC will use this power to investigate whether broadcast licensees are contravening the public interest by retransmitting radio programing funded by the Russian government in an effort to influence U.S. polices and elections. The members further inquire what steps the FCC will take if these allegations prove true.
In March, Eshoo and Doyle wrote to Chairman Pai regarding issues arising over-the-air television broadcast of RT, formerly Russia Today. RT, like Sputnik, 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.
A copy of the letter is available here.