Shock of the new? No, just a sign of the Times
AA Gill has to be given credit for having really watched RT before writing his piece - something many other critics of the channel frequently fail to do, preferring to chew on oft-repeated but completely false stereotypes rather than relying on facts.
Here are several points in his piece I would like to comment on:
1. Gill says he wanted our presenters to resemble a Brylcreemed Guy Burgess or Kim Philby. But by alluding to the Cambridge Five he fully gives himself away, almost screaming out loud that his perceptions of everything that has to do with Russia haven’t traveled far from Cold War spooks. It also needs to be pointed out that the reason for the embarrassing inability of the British secret services to expose Kim Philby for nearly three decades was that the UK was at the time - and still is - run by the Old Boys’ system: a very tight circle of upper class families, belonging to which automatically means being above doubt. Probably something looking very natural for a Times author, but laughable from outside the UK and one of the many things RT UK is here to speak about.
2. "RT concentrates on … fixing of oil prices, unrest in the EU, the duplicity of America and the poor old RAF chasing harmless Antonovs, suspecting them of being Russian invaders," Gill writes. That’s the point of RT's existence - showing the real state of things to its audience, not trying to tailor reality to match our views. And if the poor old RAF really chase the Latvian cargo plane and Murdoch-owned Sky news immediately raise a wave of ‘big bad Russia is attacking you!’ hysteria before even setting the facts straight - well, it speaks volumes about the real level of readiness for anti-Russian bias in the British media. Again, one of the many things RT UK is here to speak about. (Interestingly, even after they realized it was a Latvian plane they wouldn’t drop the ‘Russian-built’ line, how often do they accentuate Boeing is American-built or Airbus is French-built?)
3. "RT will feature the MP Galloway; for someone accused of having been Saddam’s apologist, working for Russia will be no stretch.” The tragic invasion of Iraq was a theme of RT’s recent ad campaign. One of the posters shows former Prime Minister Tony Blair speaking about the notorious “45 minutes” in which Saddam would be ready to attack, thus manipulating UK public opinion by means of mainstream media towards the necessity of joining its special partner the US in invading Iraq.
There were no weapons of mass destruction and no 45 minutes, as later events showed. But this little lie even now - more than 10 years, many billions of pounds and hundreds of thousands of casualties on - still feels a little uneasy for the UK authorities. RT’s posters have been deemed provocative and banned for this reason. The dormant journalist inside AA Gill should be asking himself since when have facts become provocative? By the way, in a recent interview, the Middle East peace (what an evil irony!) envoy Tony Blair now complains it is unfair that voters do not want to listen to his views on war and peace. To me it seems like a very good sign and robust indication of the fact that the British public, despite all the attempts by the mainstream media, has managed to maintain critical thinking and common sense. RT UK will be appealing to these traits of its audience.
4. And lastly, “Programmes are also punctuated with bizarre advertising: Calgon, … Gaviscon, … E45 … all made by RB, a consumer goods firm … based in Slough.” RT indeed sells some of its airtime and does it through an advertising agency that in turn sells bulks of ad slots to advertisers. All of the ads are region-specific. The TV ad market is based on the audience composition studies and times of the programs being aired - some programs broadcast during this or that time of the day are likely to attract this or that audience - not entirely rocket science, but could be a little tricky for a novice. Gill is a very gifted restaurant reviewer for the Sunday Times and Vanity Fair, so probably he shouldn’t waste the power of his talent and spread himself too thin over too many other fields, whose kitchen he doesn’t fully grasp.
Nikolay Bogachihin, Head of UK Office, RT
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.