Justice Department Sued by American Company that Wants to Broadcast Russian Radio Program

A U.S. broadcasting company based in Florida is suing the Department of Justice for requiring that the media company register as a foreign agent under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA), according to Newsweek.

RM Broadcasting LLC, a company operating out of Jupiter, Florida, is required to sign up as a foreign agent because it broadcasts the Russian radio program Sputnik.

FARA requires that American individuals or entities register with the government if they are doing political, public relations or financial work on behalf of foreign individuals or entities. The DOJ says that RM Broadcasting acts as a “publicity agent” and “information-service employee” for the Russian state-owned media company Rossiya Segodnya.

However, RM Broadcasting argues that the arrangement is only a run-of-the-mill business deal that does not qualify as propaganda or promotion. The dispute culminated in a lawsuit that was filed against the Department of Justice on October 19 in Florida’s federal court.

“RM does not create, provide, or have any direct control over the content of the programming, and does not possess the authority to exercise editorial control over the programming,” RM Broadcasting owner Arnold Ferolito’s lawyer Nicole Waid argued in a letter to the Department of Justice.

“RM does not act as an agent, representative, employee, or servant of Radio Sputnik, Rossiya Segodnya. The contractual relationship between the two parties solely consists of the availability of radio airtime between Radio Sputnik and an FCC licensee,” the letter continued.

Another U.S. company that broadcasts Sputnik, Reston Translator, already registered as a foreign agent last year. But unlike Reston Translator, which broadcasts radio programs itself, RM Broadcasting only buys airtime for radio stations and resells that airtime to companies like Sputnik. Legal experts say this subtle difference can be debated in court because FARA law is not well-defined.

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