UK regulator strips Moscow-backed RT news channel of its license to broadcast

3 months ago 39
  • The UK regulator's decision was made amid ongoing investigations into RT's coverage of Russia's invasion of Ukraine.
  • RT has not been accessible in the UK since early March due to European Union sanctions.
  • Major media companies have in recent weeks taken RT off their platforms in response to Russia's invasion.

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The UK's communications regulator has stripped Moscow-backed news channel RT of its broadcast license amid investigations into the its coverage of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

"We do not consider RT's licensee, ANO TV Novosti, fit and proper to hold a UK broadcast licence," Ofcom said in a statement on Friday.

Ofcom said it is carrying out 29 ongoing investigations into RT's impartiality and its coverage of the Ukraine invasion. As part of those probes, the regulator said it had launched a separate investigation into ANO TV Novosti, the findings of which resulted in the decision to revoke RT's license.

Major media companies have in recent weeks removed RT from their platforms in response to Russia's invasion. It forms part of ongoing retribution from much of the international community, which also includes crippling sanctions on Russia. Apple, Google, Youtube are among the major platforms that have blocked RT.

The RT channel has been inaccessible in the UK since early March due to European Union sanctions, the BBC reported. While the UK is no longer a part of the bloc, the EU's sanctions meant that the satellite companies in Luxembourg and France that transmitted RT's feed to the UK ceased hosting the channel, according to the outlet. 

In response to Ofcom's decision, RT's deputy editor-in-chief, Anna Belkina, called the regulator "a tool of the government, bending to its media-suppressing will."

Belkina told Insider that the situation in Ukraine is "completely unassociated to RT's operations, structure, management or editorial output."

She added that Ofcom's decision has "robbed the UK public of access to information."

Ofcom said its investigation into RT's impartiality took into account its funding by the Russian state, as well as new laws in the country that Ofcom said "criminalise any independent journalism that departs from the Russian state's own news narratives."

"We consider that given these constraints it appears impossible for RT to comply with the due impartiality rules of our Broadcasting Code in the circumstances," Ofcom said in its statement.

The watchdog's chief executive, Dame Melanie Dawes, said, "freedom of expression is something we guard fiercely in this country, and the bar for action on broadcasters is rightly set very high."

RT's US operations shut down on March 3, with all staff laid off. The broadcaster explained the halt at the time as being due to "unforeseen business interruption events."

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