Kremlin-funded Sputnik Radio has started broadcasting in Washington, D.C. according to the VOA. The Kremlin-backed radio, broadcasting on the 105.5 W288BS frequency, is reaching out to Americans with the stated goal of challenging the mainstream Media (MSM) narrative with what it calls “alternative news.”
The goal of Sputnik Radio, according to Mindia Gavasheli, chief of the Sputnik Bureau in Washington, D.C., is not to produce Kremlin propaganda but to offer American listeners perspectives that challenge the mainstream media narrative. Sputnik Radio will strive to foster minority views censored by the MSM and will support the anti-establishment agenda, according to Gavasheli. Sputnik Radio will give special attention to topics ignored by the MSM and promote diversity of opinion, he added.
“Our guys are talking about things that are not being covered by the mainstream media. And even when they talk about the topics that are being covered they clearly have a very different perspective that often is missing from the mainstream coverage.”
However, critics have alleged that what Gavasheli describes as “minority views outside the MSM” and “anti-establishment agenda” is actually Kremlin propaganda. According to critics, Russia is stepping up its efforts through Sputnik Radio to broadcast Kremlin propaganda to Americans as part of efforts to undermine U.S. democratic institutions.
However, Sputnik Radio’s Washington bureau insisted that its broadcast service will only give Russia an opportunity to reach out to Americans with its version of things as opposed to what opponents say about Russia and its government.
Gavasheli reacted to the allegation that Sputnik Radio will focus only on disseminating Kremlin propaganda to Americans.
“Since I work here, obviously I don’t feel this way,” he said. “Nobody tells me what to do. We get together with our guys every day for editorial meetings, and then decide what we’re gonna do.”
The purpose of the radio’s broadcast service from Washington, according to Gavasheli, is to dispel misrepresentations as well as “constant” attacks against Russia and its government by the U.S. mainstream media. Sputnik Radio will give Americans a chance to decide for themselves whether the portrayal of Russia and its government by the MSM is accurate. The radio service will work to counter the anti-Russian hysteria being fueled by the MSM through the narrative that Russia meddled in the U.S. presidential election, accord to Gavasheli.
Robert Orttung, an expert in international affairs at George Washington University, countered Gavasheli’s claim that Sputnik Radio will only try to portray Russia and its government accurately in opposition to MSM misrepresentation.
“At the end of the day, that’s the purpose of these broadcasters, that’s the purpose of Russian foreign policy in general, is to undermine our democracy, undermine the faith of the American people in their own institutions,” Orttung said.
According to Orttung, the effectiveness of Russian propaganda in recent years is due to the extreme polarization of the U.S. polity. Americans whose political views are not aligned with the values being promoted by the MSM are looking for alternative news sources that will tell them what they want to hear, according to Orttung.
“The only way that Russian propaganda can be effective here is when we’re completely divided ourselves. And that creates an opening for them.”
Observers have noted that Russian propaganda targeted at right-leaning, and to a significant extent, far-left leaning Americans, intensified following the conflict between Putin’s administration and the Obama administration in Ukraine. Putin was able to connect with conservatives, for instance, by presenting himself as the counterforce to liberal globalism powered by military aggression.
Lee Stranahan, a former investigative reporter with the right-leaning news site Breitbart, who is now a co-host with Sputnik Radio, dismissed concerns that Sputnik Radio will only be disseminating Kremlin propaganda.
“If people want to criticize Russia, have at it,” he said. “[Russia] doesn’t bother me in the least. When I’ve looked into it myself, Russia is not my biggest concern.”
“I think that this Russian narrative, the way it is put forward in the American media is a complete bias, it is not true,” Stranahan added.
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