Peter Schartel started a little-known, low-budget radio station in suburban Kansas City in 2020, that broadcasts the Russian government funded, Radio Sputnik. He began airing the Russian propaganda station because “he was standing up for free speech and alternative viewpoints.” His station is only one of two in the US that broadcasts Radio Sputnik; the other station is located in D.C.. For airing Russian propaganda, Schartel’s Alpine Broadcasting Corp receives up to $5,000 a month, according to a U.S. Justice Department Foreign Agent Registration Act filing in December 2021.
Schartel initially faced criticism when he began airing Radio Sputnik but the criticism has intensified since Putin launched an attack against Ukraine. He said “people accuse him and his wife being traitors to the U.S. and occasionally issue threats. Some critics say he is promoting propaganda and misinformation, but Schartel maintains most people who call to complain haven’t listened to the program.”
“Some will talk to me, but others will still call me a piece of whatever,” he said. “What I am thankful for is we are still living in a country where they can call me up. Even if they aren’t thinking about free speech they’re exercising that right.”
According to the Associated Press:
Radio Sputnik is produced by the U.S.-based branch of Rossiya Segodnya, a media group operated by the Russian government.
Its content prompted the National Association of Broadcasters to issue an unusual statement on March 1 calling on broadcasters to stop carrying state-sponsored programming with ties to Russia or its agents.
The statement from NAB President and CEO Curtis LeGeyt said the organization is a “fierce defender” of free speech but that given Russia’s unprovoked attack on Ukraine, ”we believe that our nation must stand fully united against misinformation and for freedom and democracy across the globe.”
Some of the
content Russian propaganda that aired on an episode of “The Critical Hour” featured:
- False and unsupported claims about Ukraine’s government.
- Regurgitated Russian state media lies about the Russian military’s attacks on civilian targets and its destruction of entire neighborhoods.
- Putin’s baseless claim that his enemies in Ukraine are Nazis.
When Schartel isn’t broadcasting Russian propaganda, he focuses on religious shows, airs views across all political spectrums, and promotes conspiracy theories. The Anti-Defamation League has called out one of his programs, TruNews, for spreading anti-semitic, Islamaphobic, and anti-LGBTQ messages.