The United Kingdom’s broadcasting regulator Ofcom has announced that “with immediate effect” Russia’s state-funded news channel RT will have its licence to broadcast in Britain revoked over its coverage of the war in Ukraine.
Russia’s RT, formerly Russia Today, was taken off British airwaves earlier this month following sanctions from the European Union which prohibited satellite providers in France and Luxembourg from broadcasting the station. Though the UK has left the EU, the feed for the state-controlled network was still transmitted to Sky, Freesat, and Freeview in Britain via the European providers.
Before RT could find another route of broadcasting in Britain, Ofcom announced on Friday that its licence has been revoked, stating that ANO TV Novosti — which held the licence as the owner of RT — is not “fit and proper to hold a UK broadcast licence.”
Ofcom claimed that because of recently imposed media laws in Russia — which it said will effectively “criminalise any independent journalism that departs from the Russian state’s own news narrative, in particular in relation to the invasion of Ukraine” — it will be “impossible” for RT to comply with British impartiality rules.
Dame Melanie Dawes, Ofcom Chief Executive, said in a statement: “Freedom of expression is something we guard fiercely in this country, and the bar for action on broadcasters is rightly set very high. Following an independent regulatory process, we have today found that RT is not fit and proper to hold a licence in the UK. As a result we have revoked RT’s UK broadcasting licence.”
The regulator claimed that there were 29 separate investigations into RT prior to its official banning into its coverage of the war in Ukraine.
“We consider the volume and potentially serious nature of the issues raised within such a short period to be of great concern – especially given RT’s compliance history, which has seen the channel fined £200,000 for previous due impartiality breaches,” Ofcom said.
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In response to the decision, RT deputy editor-in-chief Anna Belkina said: “With its decision Ofcom “has shown the UK public, and the regulatory community internationally, that despite a well-constructed facade of independence, it is nothing more than a tool of government, bending to its media-suppressing will.
“By ignoring RT’s completely clean record of four consecutive years and stating purely political reasons tied directly to the situation in Ukraine and yet completely unassociated to RT’s operations, structure, management or editorial output, Ofcom has falsely judged RT to not be ‘fit and proper’ and in doing so robbed the UK public of access to information.”
The move to ban RT from broadcasting in the UK follows censorship campaigns from big tech companies against Russian media throughout Europe since the start of the invasion of Ukraine.
Tech firms, such as Facebook, Microsoft, Google, and Tiktok have all taken actions to block RT and Sputnik News to varying degrees over the past weeks at the behest of the European Union.
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