C-Span’s online broadcast feed was interrupted for about 10 minutes today by RT, the Kremlin-run news channel. In an apparent coincidence, RT went off the air for 10 hours of “scheduled maintenance” a short time later. There is no evidence the two incidents are connected but the timing made for an odd coincidence.
The interruption of C-Span happened around 2:30pm eastern time as C-Span was broadcasting a speech by Rep. Maxine Waters. Deadspin’s Timothy Burke captured the moment:
Here's the moment Russia Today took over the C-SPAN1 feed. Unclear what happened. RT aired for about ten minutes before C-SPAN1 came back. pic.twitter.com/mhWVgCoFxF
— Timothy Burke (@bubbaprog) January 12, 2017
Howard Mortman, a C-Span spokesman, told the New York Times the interruption only took place online and added that he was not aware of any similar interruption happening before. C-Span issued a brief statement suggesting the problem was the result of an internal routing error, though they weren’t certain that was the case:
— CSPAN (@cspan) January 12, 2017
About 90 minutes later at 9pm Greenwich Mean Time (GMT), or 4pm eastern time, RT went off the air for “scheduled maintenance.” Here’s what the broadcast feed looks like now:
Again, there’s no evidence this was anything other than scheduled maintenance and a Google search shows that RT has gone off the air for long stretches of maintenance in the past.
A declassified U.S. intelligence report on Russian election interference includes a 7-page Annex (Annex A) focused on the propaganda activity of RT. From the Annex:
RT America TV, a Kremlin-financed channel operated from within the United States, has substantially expanded its repertoire of programming that highlights criticism of alleged US shortcomings in democracy and civil liberties. The rapid expansion of RT’s operations and budget and recent candid statements by RT’s leadership point to the channel’s importance to the Kremlin as a messaging tool and indicate a Kremlindirected campaign to undermine faith in the US Government and fuel political protest. The Kremlin has committed significant resources to expanding the channel’s reach, particularly its social media footprint. A reliable UK report states that RT recently was the most-watched foreign news channel in the UK. RT America has positioned itself as a domestic US channel and has deliberately sought to obscure any legal ties to the Russian Government.
The report says the Kremlin is spending $190 million a year to expand the reach and social media impact of RT.