Thursday, July 6, 2017


In a surprising turn of events, the FM translator at 105.5 FM that used to broadcast Bluegrass Country via WAMU-HD2 is now a repeater of Sputnik Radio, a propaganda arm of the Russian government. Bluegrass Country exited 105.5 on June 21st because it could not afford to lease the signal.  DC listeners can still hear Bluegrass Country on WAMU-HD2 and online here.

The translator is owned by Washington-based communications attorney John Garziglia. 

105.5 FM is licensed to Reston, Virginia and provides a decent signal to folks in the District and first-ring suburbs. 

The coverage map is on the right.

To make Sputnik Radio [link] available to DC listeners via 105.5 the Russians are leasing WKYS-FM’s HD3 channel. The FCC allows programming broadcast on HD channels to be repeated on FM translators. No information is available about how much money Russia is paying Urban Radio, owner of WKYS, or Garziglia.

Sputnik Radio is a 24/7 English-language service with at least one voice that is familiar to US radio listeners: Thom Hartmann. 

Hartmann’s radio talk show is carried daily Sputnik and his TV program The Big Picture appears daily on Russia TodayRT,” Sputnik’s video cousin.

In a statement, Mindia Gavasheli, the editor-in-chief of Sputnik's D.C. bureau, welcomed the move into the Nation’s capitol:

Propaganda cartoon found on Sputnik's website
We’re glad to finally be able to directly address our listeners in Washington. During the last few months Sputnik Radio has become the target of constant attacks in the US corporate media. And often the people who wrote or spoke about us didn’t even bother to listen to our broadcasts first."

Hartmann has not commented on his new radio voice in DC.


Washington, DC isn’t the only American city where radio listeners can hear pro-Russian content. Last February we reported [link] about RUSA Radio, a Russian language news service based in Brooklyn that leased the HD2 channel for iHeartMedia’s WWPR, New York.

RUSA Radio [link] is privately owned and it is unknown if it has ties to, or receives funds from Russia. It provides programming in both English and Russian. RUSA Radio is also on the air in Philadelphia and Miami via iHeart HD channels and iHeart radio app.

The FCC requires that licensees know what foreign language programs are saying on their frequencies, so we hope someone at iHeart knows Russian and is monitoring their HD2 channels.

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