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Ofcom revokes UK licence of Kremlin-backed Russia Today channel

The regulator found that RT is "not fit and proper to hold a license in the UK"

By Charlotte Krol

Russia Today logo
Russia Today logo. (Picture: Wikimedia Commons/ Benoît Prieur)

Media regulator Ofcom has revoked the UK broadcasting license for the Russia Today (RT) news channel “with immediate effect”.

The watchdog said that RT’s parent body ANO TV Novosti was not “fit and proper to hold a UK broadcast licence” after concluding its investigation of RT’s coverage of Russia’s war in Ukraine.

According to BBC News, RT responded by calling Ofcom “a tool of the government”.

The channel was pulled from all UK broadcast platforms earlier this month as a result of sanctions imposed by the European Union. Despite the UK no longer being a member of the EU, the bloc applied sanctions to satellite companies in Luxembourg and France, which provided the RT feed to Sky, Freesat and Freeview.

RT has also been blocked on YouTube but its website is still available in the UK.

Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries, who previously described the channel as “[Russian President Vladimir] Putin’s polluting propaganda machine”, said: “I welcome Ofcom’s decision and it’s right that our independent regulator has taken action against RT.

“The outlets’ lies and propaganda, where victims are cast as the aggressors and the brutality of Russia’s actions are concealed, have absolutely no place on our screens.”

Ofcom launched 29 investigations into the “due impartiality of RT’s news and current affairs coverage” of the invasion of Ukraine in recent weeks. It said that the state-funded channel’s effective criminalisation of “any independent journalism that departs from the Russian state’s own news narrative” was among the reasons for pulling its UK licence.

“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,” an Ofcom statement read.

Chief executive Dame Melanie Dawes added: “Freedom of expression is something we guard fiercely in this country, and the bar for action on broadcasters is rightly set very high.”

RT deputy editor-in-chief Anna Belkina responded to the news, saying that Ofcom had “robbed the UK public of access to information”.

“What we have witnessed over the last few days, be it comments from the President of the EU Commission or from PM Boris Johnson, is that none of them had pointed to a single grain of evidence that what RT has reported over these days, and continues to report, is not true.

“Instead, what they have said is that what RT brings to its audience is not allowed in their supposedly free media environment. When it comes to the Russian voice, or just a different perspective from theirs, it is simply not allowed to exist,” she said.

The war in Ukraine entered its third week yesterday (March 17).

Meanwhile, US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has recited a Ukraine-themed poem written by U2’s Bono for the White House’s annual Friends of Ireland luncheon.