RT CLEARED OVER COVERAGE OF MH17 CRASH REPORTING AFTER COMPLAINTS TO OFCOM

LONDON, JANUARY 22, 2015 – UK media regulator has assessed whether RT’s coverage of the MH17 crash was biased following several viewer complaints, and has not found any problems that merited investigation nor any breach of standards.

The original complaints concerned RT’s July 17-22, 2014 coverage of the Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 crash in eastern Ukraine, and the subsequent discussion of the possible culprits who might have brought down the plane. After careful review of 30 hours of off-air recordings, Ofcom concluded that the complaints “did not raise issues warranting investigation.” RT has therefore been cleared of all charges of insufficient impartiality and factuality in these reports.

“A lot of noise has been made in recent months by the mainstream media about the alleged bias in RT’s coverage on this tragedy; now Ofcom has looked into the issue and effectively found it all baseless,” said RT’s editor in chief Margarita Simonyan. “We have frequently struggled to get the mainstream media to accept our right to broadcast alternative points of view without being subjected to accusations of “bias”. We believe that the existence of a range of media voices safeguards the vibrancy of debate. So we welcome the regulator’s decision in this case”.

Although in November 2014 Ofcom found certain RT reports on the crisis in Ukraine to be in breach of the regulator’s impartiality rules, RT’s coverage of the Maidan protests has otherwise been positively recognised by RT’s industry peers and the audience. It was nominated for the Monte Carlo Television Festival Award for best 24-hour newscast, and also in November received high commendation from the jury of the Association of International Broadcasters (AIB). Britain’s own Express newspaper noted in March that RT 'has become a favoured destination for those seeking an alternative view' on the events in Ukraine.

Ofcom has also cleared RT of accusations of breach brought against the channel for using graphic imagery in the ‘breaking news’ broadcast of the crash. The UK regulator found that in reports that contained blurred images of the crash victims, RT had taken “sufficient steps to limit the potential for offence. This included pixelating graphic imagery and only broadcasting it after the watershed,” – that is, after 9 pm local time, when TV programmes which might be unsuitable for children can be broadcast. Some of RT’s broadcasts about the crash were preceded by visual (textual) and/or voiced warnings that graphic images might be shown.

In contrast, Ofcom did not clear the BBC of a complaint that the passport of a victim of the crash was inappropriate for broadcast.But the BBC having apologized and removed the materials from its subsequent broadcasts, Ofcom considered the matter resolved.

Ofcom (The Office of Communications) is the communications regulator in the UK, monitoring the content and quality of TV and radio services in the country. One of its objectives is to protect the audience from harmful and offensive material and to ensure due accuracy and impartiality in news broadcasts.