British regulator responds to request to ban RT
The UK’s media watchdog has issued a response to calls to review RT’s broadcasting license in the country amid a growing backlash in the West to Moscow’s decision to recognize the two breakaway Donbass republics.
Replying to a request from Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries on Wednesday, Ofcom set out its stance on whether the network should be allowed to stream over the airways in the nation as tensions flare between Ukraine and Russia.
“Recognizing the serious nature of the crisis in Ukraine, we have been keeping the situation under close review and have already stepped up our oversight of coverage of these events by broadcasters in the UK,” the statement read.
According to the agency, “We are expediting complaints in this area as a matter of urgency and we will not hesitate to take swift action where necessary.”
“I am confident that we have the full range of enforcement tools at our disposal and our track record shows that when we find a breach of our rules, we can and do take action,” Ofcom’s Chief Executive, Dame Melanie Dawes, wrote, adding that the regulator would be “fully transparent” about any investigations it opens and their outcomes.
“It is acceptable for broadcasters to present issues from a particular perspective provided that alternative views and opinions are also represented,” the notice read. “It would not be acceptable for any of our licensees to broadcast one-sided propaganda.”
The media watchdog’s statement comes just hours after UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson revealed that the Culture Secretary had appealed to Ofcom, asking it to consider banning RT from being streamed on TVs in the country.
Dorries insisted in her statement that “RT is demonstrably part of Russia’s global disinformation campaign, as its own editor-in-chief has made clear in the past, who has called the network an ‘information weapon’ of the Russian state.”
RT’s deputy editor-in-chief and head of communications, Anna Belkina, hit out at the move, suggesting that MPs are exposing London’s “self-proclaimed commitment” to free speech as a “sham.”
“Even in the face of undue political pressure, [Ofcom] has continuously found RT to be in line with other UK broadcasters, without a single breach of broadcasting code to be found in the last four years – not something that can be said about many other channels in the country,” she said.
Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova also poured scorn on the move, stating that, if Britain goes ahead with its threats, it should expect a response in kind.
“British journalists can ask their German colleagues how it is,” she told reporters. Earlier this month, Moscow said the Russian office of the German state broadcaster Deutsche Welle was to be shut down in response to Berlin’s “unfriendly actions” against RT DE. The Russian foreign ministry added that it would also be blocked from broadcasting in Russia via a satellite or through other means, and that all staff members are to have their press credentials taken away from them.
The move came after Germany’s top media regulator upheld a ban on RT’s German language channel due to the absence of a locally-issued license. The channel previously obtained a valid pan-European permit in Serbia, but Berlin declared this as insufficient.