A federal judge in Florida on Tuesday ruled that RM Broadcasting in Washington, D.C. must register with the government as a foreign agent. The Department of Justice brought about the lawsuit because the radio station airs Sputnik International 24/7 from Moscow, WTOP-TV reported.
The company's American owner, Arnold Ferolito, argued he his station was simply buying and reselling airtime to the Russian government-owned news agency Rossiya Segodnya, The Hill reported.
RM and Rossiya Segodnya came to a broadcast agreement back in 2017. RM was to run the Russian broadcast continuously without edits until 2021. In 2018 though, the Department of Justice told Ferolito RM would need to register as a foreign principal under the Foreign Agents Registration Act of 1938 because the station was acting as a "publicity agent" for Russia, the Associated Press reported.
“FARA is a disclosure statute that requires persons acting as agents of foreign principals in a political or quasi-political capacity to make periodic public disclosure of their relationship with the foreign principal, as well as activities, receipts and disbursements in support of those activities,” according to the definition on the DOJ’s website.
Ferolito brought the issue before a court because he said his company was responsible for buying and selling airtime, not creating the station's content. The judge said "RM’s assertion that it has no input or knowledge of Rossiya Segodnya’s programming and no intent to advance Russia’s interests is irrelevant."
FARA was adopted during World War II to protect national security and combat Nazi propaganda.
Sputnik International 24/7 registered as a foreign act back in November 2017.