On July 10th, John Lansing, the CEO and Director of the US Agency for Global Media (USAGM) claimed that the investment in RT and Sputnik by Russia is approximately 10 times larger compared to what the US invests in USAGM’s 5 outlets.
To a question by Rep. John Fortenberry – “At what measure can you compare us to what Russia is doing?”
John Lansing had the following answer:
“Well, I don’t know exactly what they invest in RT and in Sputnik and in other Russian-language media. But I know that it’s more than what the United States government invests.”
“Ten times? A hundred times?” Fortenberry urged.
“I think it’s about 10 X, absolutely,” Lansing answered.
Lansing spoke before the House Appropriations Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs “United States Efforts to Counter Russian Disinformation and Malign Influence.”
In his words, the “information battlefield” may be the fight of the 21st century.
“Russia’s goal is to destroy the very idea of an objective, verifiable set of facts,” said John Lansing.
Joined by Lea Gabrielle and Jim Kulikowski with the State Department, Lansing called on Congress to commit more funds. They argued Russia has spared no expense disrupting democratic processes, most recently in the Ukrainian presidential election.
“From their perspective, in a world where nothing is empirically truthful, any lie will do,” Lansing added.
Pushed by Congresswoman Lois Frankel to give specific examples, Lansing pointed to a claim by the Kremlin in 2014 that the U.S. had loaded Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 with dead bodies and shot it down to pin the international crime on Russia.
“They take the news as we receive it or as we broadcast it and they distort it and change it,” Lansing said. The State Department’s Gabrielle added Russia will exploit any “string of division” including the president’s words.
The outlets that USAGM oversees are: the Voice of America (VOA); Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty(RFE/RL); Radio Free Asia (RFA); the Middle East Broadcasting Networks (MBN), which include Alhurra TV and Radio Sawa; and the Office of Cuba Broadcasting’s (OCB) Radio and TV Marti.
“The mission of USAGM is to inform, engage, and connect people around the world in support of freedom and democracy. We produce news on all media platforms, and our programs reach 345 million people on a weekly basis in more than 100 countries and in 61 languages. “
According to Lansing, it is worrisome that influence by RT and Sputnik was increasing globally, and even in the US.
“Increasingly, Kremlin disinformation campaigns are aimed not only at its own citizens, but also at global audiences. State-sponsored Russian broadcasters such as RT (formerly Russia Today) and Sputnik are expanding their global operations even into the United States. Right here in Washington D.C., Sputnik purchased airtime on a local radio station in 2017 to broadcast Russian state propaganda. Russian state-sponsored disinformation networks operate in English, Arabic, Spanish, French, German, and in at least 25 other languages. Russian influence is contributing to the deteriorating media environments and democratic backsliding in places such as the Balkans, where Russia partners with local media outlets, bloggers, and other influencers to push anti-Western narratives and pro-Kremlin stories. “
In addition, to that the Kremlin also targets Russian-speakers with the vast resources of its domestic state-controlled news and entertainment networks.
“The $28 million a year USAGM can devote to Russian-language programming and the additional $64 million allocated to broadcasting in the rest of Eurasia is a significant investment that shows demonstrable impact—but it is relatively small in comparison.”
And this is where the discrepancy happens – according to Alina Polyakova of the Brookings Institute said that RT and Sputnik combined will have a budget of $277 million for 2020. Compared to the specifically Russian-language programming of the USAGM, yes it could be deemed 10 times lower.
The USAGM’s total budget for all of its affairs, requested for 2020 is $628 million. And this is not taking account the endeavors and investment in other MSM outlets who are obviously and clearly affiliated with the US government.
Trying to play the personal tragedy card, Polyakova said her family’s story underscores the importance of U.S. methods to shed light on Russian falsehoods during the Cold War. Her family immigrated to the U.S. from the Soviet Union in the 1980s because they “understood what the truth was about our country, that our own authorities were not providing at the time,” she said.
According to her, today, by contrast, there is a failure at the highest levels of government to educate U.S. citizens on the Russian threat and to learn from the countries that have been fending off anti-democracy attacks for decades.
“If we want to understand the kinds of threats we will face in the future here in this country,” Polyakova said, “we must look to those frontline states like Ukraine, who have been undergoing these kinds of attacks for decades.”
That is because massive projects such as HBO’s Chernobyl that present the Soviet Union and by proxy Russia as some rogue statue that imposes its iron will through fear are not considered specifically funded by Washington.
Of course, there is an abundance of outlets, companies and individuals willing to “tell the true narrative” when it comes to being paid obscene amounts of money.
And if it appears that both the UK and Germany are also targeting RT and Sputnik in their conduct in recent days, it’s purely by coincidence, undoubtedly.
MORE ON THE TOPIC:
- UK Marks Media Freedom Conference By Banning RT, Sputnik From It
- German Intelligence Service Report Presents Sputnik and RT As Security Threats As Significant As ISIS And Al-Qaeda