On March 29, Margarita Simonyan, Editor-in-Chief of the Russian state-funded satellite network RT, tweeted that her channel would be dropped from its provider in Washington, D.C. Simonyan cited RT’s designation as a “foreign agent” under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) as the reason.
That same day, Bloomberg, the international online business news Web site, reported what was actually happening. Two digital stations based in Northern Virginia, WNVT and WNVC, are going off the air. These stations host about a dozen different foreign channels, including RT. According to Bloomberg, the stations auctioned off their share of the airwaves one year ago. It is worth noting here that this had happened nearly eight months prior to RT being required by the U.S. government to register as a foreign agent.
Both WNVT and WNVC got their foreign programming, including that of RT, from a company called MHZ Networks. In addition to RT, MHZ also provides content from other foreign networks such as Turkey’s TRT World, France 24, and Deutsche-Welle. Frederick Thomas, MHZ’s founder and president, told Bloomberg that the U.S. Justice Department’s requirement that RT register as a foreign agent had little to do with the network’s disappearance from the airwaves. According to him, the two stations’ auction of their share of the airwaves was the main reason.
Margarita Simonyan has often made misleading statements regarding RT’s requirement to register under FARA, which Polygraph.info has fact-checked. RT’s designation as a foreign agent does not restrict its ability to provide content; rather, it requires the network to disclose information about its financial sources and to label certain content with disclaimers about its funding when broadcasting it in the U.S.
On April 2, the Russian state-funded news outlet Sputnik falsely reported that MHZ had been “ordered” to remove RT without giving an explanation. The article cites the Associated Press, but provides no link to the source. It also quotes Frederick Thomas, who according to them said “no explanation” was given as to why RT had to be dropped. This contradicts what Thomas said to Bloomberg, and since the auction of WNVT and WNVC’s airwaves had taken place last year, Thomas would certainly be aware of the real reason for dropping not only RT, but a number of other channels as well.