Russia’s State outlet RT has told US officials that it does not know from where it is funded.
On Monday, RT’s American division complied with a US demand that it register as a foreign agent. The division, T & R Productions LLC, wrote that it works for an “autonomous non-commercial organization”, TV Novosti.
T & R Productions LLC confirmed that TV Novosti — an “NGO organized under Russian Federation law” — is ”financed by a foreign government, foreign political party, or other foreign principal”. However, it then explained that, while it understood “that the Russian Federation finances ANO TV-Novosti to a substantial extent”, 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.
T & R Productions LLC denied that it is involved in political activities, insisting that its purpose is “to produce news, talk show, and entertainment programs that are designed merely to inform, not influence”.
There is a sharp disparity between funding and expenditure in the statement. T & R Productions LLC says it has received only one payment from TV-Novosti in the past two months, $350,000 for “television production services” on October 31. But in August and September 2017, the company reported spending of more than $6.6 million.
On November 9, RT chief editor Margarita Simonyan said the outlet had been left with “no choice” but to register as a foreign agent. RT headlined on Tuesday, “Forcing RT to Register as ‘Foreign Agent’ is a ‘Horrendous Blow to Press Freedom’”.
Russian officials have spoken of retaliation against broadcasters such as CNN, Deutsche Welle, Voice of America, and Radio Liberty.