Larry King’s back on the air, beaming his high-octane brand of talk to households around the world. Where can you catch him? Kremlin-backed television.
Moscow wants you to pay better attention to what it’s saying, and to better reach your eyes and ears it’s spending around a half-billion dollars a year and carrying top-name talent like King and former governor and professional wrestler Jesse “The Body” Ventura.
Worried that the Russian message is getting through, Western countries are pushing back, including with a proposed “action plan” being discussed by European Union leaders.
For Lieutenant Colonel Simon West, a British Army specialist on strategic communications, RT’s programming lineup is a canny move designed to achieve both audience share and trust.
“Larry King, well, you and I know him. He’s a chap of great broadcasting credibility,” said West, consultant at a Riga, Latvia-based facility opened by NATO member states last year in large part to address the information challenge from Moscow.
RT’s oft-repeated slogan is “question more.” In the final analysis, Britain’s ambassador to NATO told AP, Russian media may not be trying to persuade foreign publics, but to confuse them.
“They aren’t concerned to prove they are right, but to muddy the information space so much that it’s hard to get the truth through,” Sir Adam Thomson said.
In the U.S., Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs Victoria Nuland, in March testimony to a House committee, requested more than $20 million in new funding for State Department programs “to counter Russian propaganda.” Already in fiscal 2013, budgets for the government-financed Voice of America and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty operations totaled $288.5 million.
Nuland said Moscow’s wide-ranging effort to sway Western leaders and publics includes funding political campaigns and “false NGOs” that defend Russian interests. Russia has also organized “troll farms” of pro-Kremlin bloggers and social media posters to disseminate its official view and attack those who disagree.