Dems Want FCC to Investigate Sputnik Radio Service

Top Democrats on the House Energy & Commerce Commission want FCC Chairman Ajit Pai to investigate Russian interference in the 2016 election via U.S. broadcasting.

At issue is Sputnik, a digital news/radio service reportedly funded by the Russian government.

Cable channel Russia Today has come under similar scrutiny from the same Democratic legislators, Rep. Frank Pallone (N.J.), ranking member of the Energy & Commerce Committee, Mike Doyle (Pa.), ranking member of the Communications Subcommittee, and former subcommittee ranking member Anna Eshoo (Calif.).

Related: FCC's Pai: Free Speech Is Under Siege

“Recent reports suggest that Sputnik was used as part of the Kremlin’s efforts to influence the 2016 election,” the House members wrote to Pai in a letter dated Monday, Sept. 18. “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.”

They want to know whether Pai is currently investigating whether broadcast licensees are "contravening" the public interest by carrying Russian-backed efforts to influence U.S. elections, and if not, will it do so, and what steps it was authorized to take if the allegations proved true.

An FCC spokesperson had not returned a request for comment at press time.

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.