LIBERTY, MO (KCTV) -- Russian radio is here in the U.S. and what might surprise you is that it's being broadcast from our own backyard on Kansas City airwaves.
The company hopes you stumble upon it during your morning drive and get hooked. Meanwhile, critics say it is propaganda and the goal is to convince you America isn’t good.
The radio station is in the middle of a small neighborhood Liberty. It may the last place in the world you’d expect Russian radio to be broadcast from, but it’s happening at KCXL Radio.
The company producing it was even forced to register as a foreign agent. A lot of people say it is propaganda. KCXL says it’s not and it has a place here in KC.
It’s not typical talk radio and KCXL isn’t your typical radio station. There are a few satellites, yes, but nobody at the door. We did manage to reach them using a phone number on the door.
Jonne Santoli-Shartel is the KCXL spokesperson and wife of KCXL President and CEO Peter Shartel.
“It’s a completely different world,” she said. “Have you listened to Sputnik, 6 to 9 in the morning?”
Together, they air Sputnik Radio on three KC radio stations. It brings Moscow, quite literally, to the sweet land of Liberty (Liberty, Missouri).
“You’re saying Sputnik Radio is free speech?” KCTV5’s Joe Chiodo asked. “Absolutely, oh yes,” Santoli-Shartel said. “One hundred percent. If you listen to it, the people doing the show out of Washington, they are speaking their minds.”
Sputnik Radio first aired there last month. “Someone called us and threatened us,” she said.
Critics say Radio Sputnik is full of lies and makes it clear America isn’t united but, rather, divided.
UMKC Assistant Professor of Political Science Debra Leiter said the station has an agenda.
“Twisting and tweaking a story, spinning a story,” she said.
“First reaction when you found out this radio station existed?” Chiodo asked. “I couldn’t believe it,” she said. “I was so surprised. My first reaction actually was, ‘KC?’ Then my second reaction was, ‘Oh, that’s very clever!”
She said it wants listeners to believe the U.S. is the enemy and question the government’s intent.
“This is an operation run out of Moscow, tied to their state apparatus,” she said. “It absolutely is spun.”
“What is your response to her when she says this is a radio station with a spin?” Chiodo asked Santoli-Shartel. She said, “Okay, you know what I think? Okay, I’ll tell you what I think. She has a spin to things. I have a spin to things. You have a spin to things. I think we all do.”
KC is one of just two places in the country airing Sputnik News. The other is D.C.
Leiter said that in today’s political climate Midwesterners are full of discontent and surprisingly impressionable.
RM Broadcasting, which owns Sputnik Radio, was forced to register as a foreign agent.
We asked Leiter if it is legal and she said, “Yeah, now that they’re a foreign agent they’ve done what they’re supposed to do.”
Documents show the company is paying $324,000 for three years of airtime. That’s $49.27 an hour. The Schartels get $27.50 for each of three hours aired per day.
Leiter worries about the ripple effect propaganda can cause.
“Once I know there’s a Russian radio station spinning the news in a negative way, I may greet all media with greater skepticism,” she said.
Radio Sputnik recently received heavy backlash in France. The government spoke out against it, saying the station misled the public during recent presidential campaigns.
UMKC said it's not surprised Radio Sputnik launched here right before our own 2020 election.