Russia Today, the Russian state-backed international news broadcaster, could be banned from broadcasting in Britain after regulator Ofcom found that it had broken impartiality rules around the reporting of the poisoning of former-spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia.
The media regulator said that it was considering imposing a “statutory sanction” on the service, which could either mean a fine or ultimately revoking its broadcasting licence.
“Ofcom has today found that the RT news channel broke broadcasting rules by failing to preserve due impartiality in seven news and current affairs programmes over a six-week period,” it noted. “Taken together, the seven breaches represent a serious failure of compliance with our broadcasting rules. We have told RT that we are minded to consider imposing a statutory sanction. The broadcaster now has an opportunity to make representations to us, which we will consider before proceeding further.”
Seven programmes, including Sputnik and Crosstalk, were found to be in breach of impartiality rules between March 17 and April 26, while three further programmes were found not in breach.
RT is a global news and current affairs channel produced in Russia and funded by the Federal Agency for Press and Media Communications of the Russian Federation. The channel is made for UK audiences, providing a Russian perspective on UK and global news and current affairs related programming. In the UK, the channel broadcasts on satellite and terrestrial platforms. The licence for RT is held by TV Novosti.
Ofcom noted that in the wake of the poisoning of the former FSB secret service officer, Skripal and his daughter Yulia in Salisbury on March 4, 2018, there was a “significant” increase in the number of programmes broadcast that we considered warranted investigation as potential breaches of its code.
RT said that its mission was to “make available an alternative point of view on world events, especially Russia-related ones”. However, it recognized that making available a Russian point of view on matters of controversy did not require and should not mean presenting that Russian point of view as if it were the only point of view. It said that its mission was not to serve as a propaganda vehicle for the Russian Government but to cover stories overlooked or underreported by the mainstream media.
A Russia Today spokesman said, “RT is extremely disappointed by Ofcom’s conclusions in what were almost all self-initiated investigations into RT by the regulator. We are reviewing the findings Ofcom has put forward and will decide shortly the nature of our next steps.”