RT's American subsidiary told the U.S. Justice Department that it doesn't know where its money comes from in Russia
On Monday, November 13, the U.S. Justice Department published documents filed by the Russian state television network RT (Russia Today) for registration as a foreign agent. According to its FARA records, RT’s American division is a company called “T & R Productions LLC” that works for an “autonomous noncommercial organization” known as “TV Novosti.”
In its registration statement, T & R Productions LLC ignored most of the questions about TV Novosti (its “foreign principal”), affirming only that it is ”financed by a foreign government, foreign political party, or other foreign principal.” When asked to describe this financing, however, the company said it doesn’t actually know where the money originates. “[It is our understanding] that the Russian Federation finances ANO TV-Novosti to a substantial extent,” T & R Productions LLC wrote, explaining that it “is not sufficiently aware of who supervises, owns, directs, controls, or subsidizes ANO TV-Novosti to answer the foregoing questions.”
Russia’s 2017 federal budget allocated almost 19 billion rubles ($315.5 million) to RT.
In its FARA statement, RT’s American subsidiary also denies that its operations include political activities, insisting that its primary purpose is “to produce news, talk show, and entertainment programs that are designed merely to inform, not influence.”
As noted by Russian journalist Alexey Kovalev, T & R Productions LLC redacted specific remuneration figures from the copies of its contracts for specific TV programs (such as “The Big Picture With Tom Hartmann,” “Boom Bust,” “News With Ed Schultz,” and others), though the company’s general manager, Mikhail Solodovnikov, reported that his annual salary is $670,000.
In the past two months, T & R Productions LLC says it has received just a single payment from TV-Novosti for $350,000 (“for television production services”) on October 31. In August and September 2017, meanwhile, the company reported expenditures of more than $6.6 million on things like salaries and benefits ($1.7 million), advertising ($5,500), legal fees ($60,000), and so on.
On Thursday, November 9, RT chief editor Margarita Simonyan announced that her television network had been left with “no choice” but to register as a foreign agent in the United States. America’s Foreign Agents Registration Act typically applies to groups lobbying on behalf of foreign governments, but the FARA registry does include a few foreign media outlets, as well. Organizations registered under FARA, however, are permitted to continue publishing and broadcasting.
On November 10, a leading Duma official said Russia’s retaliatory measures would include new restrictions on the social media accounts of certain Western media outlets. On November 13, Andrey Isayev, the first deputy director of the Duma’s United Russia faction, named several media outlets that could be targeted using these new laws, listing CNN, Deutsche Welle, Voice of America, and Radio Liberty.