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DC radio station took $4.4 million from Chinese Communist Party to broadcast propaganda

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WANG ZHAO/AFP via Getty Images

A Washington, D.C., radio station took $4.4 million from the Chinese Communist Party over the past two years to broadcast propaganda, according to a report from the Washington Free Beacon.

The radio station WCRW-AM aired content from China Global Television Network and several talk shows that portray China in a positive light as part of a deal its parent company, Potomac Media Group, struck with the CCP. In filings with the Justice Department submitted last Thursday, the Virginia-based Potomac Media Group disclosed its contract with the Communist Party’s International Communication Planning Bureau.

Under the Foreign Agents Registration Act, U.S. law requires that anyone inside the United States seeking to influence American policy or public opinion on behalf of a foreign government or group must register with the Department of Justice.

The Free Beacon reported that Potomac Media's filing details how the International Communication Planning Bureau, an arm of China's propaganda ministry, is permitted to review broadcasts and verify programming aired on WCRW. Potomac Media is contractually obligated to provide the Planning Bureau with reports on audience reach, feedback, and "evaluation from international organizations."

The payments of $4.4 million cover the period between July 2018 and August 2021. WCRW was paid for broadcasting CGTN content, social media promotion, and for production of "The Bridge" talk show, according to the Free Beacon.

The report indicated Potomac Media's registration as a foreign agent comes at a time when the federal government is tightening enforcement of foreign agent laws, requiring state-controlled media companies in China, Russia, and Turkey to register their activities with the Justice Department. CGTN was required to register as a foreign agent in 2019, the Free Beacon notes.

WCRW has reportedly aired content from state-run China Radio International since 1992 but has not until now registered as a foreign agent with the Justice Department.

In 2015, Reuters reported that the FCC would investigate allegations that WCRW was controlled by China Radio International. At the same time, the Department of Justice announced an investigation to determine whether CRI was in compliance with the Foreign Agents Registration Act.

At the time, Reuters reported that 60% of the station's airtime was leased by a subsidiary of CRI.

China's partnership with a U.S. radio station is just one part of a multifaceted strategy to promote propaganda in the United States. Chinese state-run media organizations have relied on social media and publication deals with American newspapers and magazines to promote their content to Western audiences. The Free Beacon observed that China Daily, a state run-newspaper, has paid news outlets like Time, Foreign Policy, and the Wall Street Journal millions of dollars to run its articles online.

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