Ofcom fines RT £200,000
July 26, 2019
By Colin Mann
UK broadcast regulator Ofcom has fined the news channel RT £200,000 (€223,000) for serious failures to comply with its broadcasting rules – and required the channel to broadcast a summary of the findings to its viewers.
Ofcom has rules in place requiring broadcast news to be presented with due impartiality. Its investigation found that RT failed to preserve due impartiality in seven news and current affairs programmes between March 17th and April 2th 2018.
Taken together, these breaches represented serious and repeated failures of compliance with its rules. Ofcom was particularly concerned by the frequency of RT’s rule-breaking over a relatively short period of time.
The programmes were mostly in relation to major matters of political controversy and current public policy – namely the UK Government’s response to the events in Salisbury, and the Syrian conflict.
Following what it describes as “a fair and transparent process”, which included receiving written and oral representations from the licensee, Ofcom has decided to:
- impose a financial penalty of £200,000; and
- direct RT to broadcast a summary of Ofcom’s findings, in a form and on dates to be determined by Ofcom.
Ofcom considers this sanction to be appropriate and proportionate. It takes into account the additional steps that RT has taken to ensure its compliance since it launched its investigations; and that it has not recorded any further breaches of its due impartiality rules against RT to date.
Ofcom will await the conclusion of RT’s application for judicial review of its breach decisions before enforcing the sanction.
In a statement, RT said it was “very wrong ”” for Ofcom to have issued a sanction against RT on the basis of its breach findings that are currently under Judicial Review by the High Court in London.
“RT went to court over Ofcom’s December findings against our network because we believe that they were reached in a manner contrary to the law and were wrong. Last month we received confirmation from a judge at a hearing in the High Court that, despite Ofcom’s opposition, our case against Ofcom should proceed.”
“And while we continue to contest the very legitimacy of the breach decisions themselves, we find the scale of proposed penalty to be particularly inappropriate and disproportionate per Ofcom’s own track record. It is notable that cases that involved hate speech and incitement to violence have been subject to substantially lower fines. It is astonishing that, in contrast, Ofcom sees RT’s programmes – which it thought should have presented more alternative points of view – as worthy of greater sanction than programmes containing hate speech and incitement to violence.”
“We are duly considering further legal optionsm,” concluded RT.