Ofcom revokes RT’s broadcast licence
March 18, 2022
By Colin Mann
Broadcast regulator Ofcom has revoked news channel RT’s licence to broadcast in the UK, with immediate effect.
It says it has done so on the basis that it does not consider RT’s licensee, ANO TV Novosti, fit and proper to hold a UK broadcast licence.
The decision comes amid 29 ongoing investigations by Ofcom into the due impartiality of RT’s news and current affairs coverage of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. it considers 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 (€237,000) for previous due impartiality breaches.
In this context, Ofcom launched a separate investigation to determine whether ANO TV Novosti is fit and proper to retain its licence to broadcast.
This investigation has taken account of a number of factors, including RT’s relationship with the Russian Federation. It has recognised that RT is funded by the Russian state, which has recently invaded a neighbouring sovereign country. Ofcom also notes new laws in Russia which effectively criminalise any independent journalism that departs from the Russian state’s own news narrative, in particular in relation to the invasion of Ukraine. Ofcom considers that given these constraints it appears impossible for RT to comply with the due impartiality rules of its Broadcasting Code in the circumstances.
Ofcom recognises that RT is currently off air in the UK, as a result of sanctions imposed by the EU since the invasion of Ukraine commenced. It takes seriously the importance, in a democratic society, of a broadcaster’s right to freedom of expression and the audience’s right to receive information and ideas without undue interference. It also takes seriously the importance of maintaining audiences’ trust and public confidence in the UK’s broadcasting regulatory regime.
“Taking all of this into account, as well as our immediate and repeated compliance concerns, 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,” it stated.
“Freedom of expression is something we guard fiercely in this country, and the bar for action on broadcasters is rightly set very high,” asserted Dame Melanie Dawes, Ofcom Chief Executive. “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 deputy editor-in-chief Anna Belkina said Ofcom had “robbed the UK public of access to information”.
“What we have witnessed over the last few days, be it comments from the President of the EU Commission or from PM Boris Johnson, is that none of them had pointed to a single grain of evidence that what RT has reported over these days, and continues to report, is not true.”
“Instead, what they have said is that what RT brings to its audience is not allowed in their supposedly free media environment. When it comes to the Russian voice, or just a different perspective from theirs, it is simply not allowed to exist.”