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Friday 3 February 2023 Dublin: 10°C
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# Media Ban
Britain's broadcasting regulator revokes Russian broadcaster RT’s UK licence
The RT news channel was earlier this month banned from broadcasting in Ireland.

BRITAIN’S BROADCASTING REGULATOR Ofcom has revoked Kremlin-backed broadcaster RT’s UK licence with immediate effect.

The TV watchdog said RT’s licensee, ANO TV Novosti, is “not fit and proper” to hold a licence amid 29 ongoing investigations into the “due impartiality” of its programmes.

A statement released by the regulator today said: “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.

“In this context, we launched a separate investigation to determine whether ANO TV Novosti is fit and proper to retain its licence to broadcast.”

Ofcom said the decision to suspend the licence came amid ongoing investigations into RT’s news and current affairs coverage of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson also having previously called for an Ofcom review.

RT is currently off air in the UK due to sanctions imposed.

Ofcom said it noted new laws in Russia which “effectively criminalise any independent journalism that departs from the Russian state’s own news narrative”, particularly in relation to the invasion of Ukraine.

It added: “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.

“We have concluded that we cannot be satisfied that RT can be a responsible broadcaster in the current circumstances.

“Ofcom is therefore revoking RT’s licence to broadcast with immediate effect.”

The media watchdog went on: “We take seriously the importance, in our democratic society, of a broadcaster’s right to freedom of expression and the audience’s right to receive information and ideas without undue interference.

“We also take seriously the importance of maintaining audiences’ trust and public confidence in the UK’s broadcasting regulatory regime.”

Ofcom 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.

“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.”

RT’s deputy editor-in-chief, Anna Belkina, said Ofcom’s decision to suspend the broadcaster’s UK licence has “robbed” the British public of access to information.

In a statement, she said: “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 RT news website is currently still up and running but its YouTube channel has been taken down.

Ireland’s stance

The RT news channel was earlier this month banned from broadcasting in Ireland

It came after an EU ban on broadcasts of RT and Sputnik as part of a package of sanctions over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The EU had announced an immediate ban on RT and Sputnik’s signals via satellite, cable, apps or the internet and a suspension of their licences in the EU, while also banning RT’s subsidiary channels broadcasting in English, German, French and Spanish.

A spokesperson for The Department of Foreign Affairs told The Journal earlier this month: “EU sanctions in response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, already the most extensive ever, continue to be expanded. These include the banning of Russian media outlets disseminating disinformation in the EU.”

RT’s coverage of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has been found to be biased since the invasion began.

With reporting by Hayley Halpin

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