Eutelsat suffers from confusing instructions
December 12, 2022
The influential – and tenacious – Reporters Without Frontiers (RSF) organisation succeeded in winning support from France’s Council of State over Eutelsat’s carriage and redistribution of certain Russian channels.
The Council of State, the nation’s supreme administrative court, has overruled French broadcasting regulator Arcom which claimed it had no authority to compel Eutelsat from carrying the Russian channels.
The Council of State, in a summary ruling, said that there was serious doubt about the legality of Arcom’s position, and has now ordered Arcom to look again at its decision and RSF’s request to instruct Eutelsat to take down three Russian channels (Rossiya 1, Perviy Kanal and NTV) on its broadcast signals to Russia, Ukraine and the Baltic states of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia.
Christophe Deloire, RSF secretary-general, said in a statement: “This decision is a victory for the right to reliable news and information, and for the fight against the Kremlin’s war propaganda. We are pleased that our legal arguments prevailed against a regulator that resorted to the most minimalist possible reading of the law to justify its claim to lack authority, and used all sorts of arguments, even the most obviously spurious ones, as grounds for taking no action”.
RSF claims that Eutelsat’s signals serve some 15 million TV subscribers and which represent at least 15 million satellite subscribers and 25 per cent of all homes in the Russian federation.
RSF’s lawyer in the case, Patrice Spinosi, pulled no punches, saying: “This victory is a very important first step. [the decision] reminds Arcom of its duty to protect media freedom and France’s international obligations. The way is now open to a general ban on French satellite operators such as Eutelsat from contributing – beyond the European Union’s borders or in territories illegally occupied by the Russian army – to the dissemination of political propaganda and reporting that incites hatred, violence and war crimes”.
The Kyev Post, published in Ukraine, stated in an article by Jim Phillipoff, that since the full-scale invasion of Ukraine by Putin’s forces, Russia has “weaponised” its propaganda war. “This includes media outlets RT and Sputnik, a host of Russian language TV channels, the global troll army, and election manipulation to name just a few. RT’s budget alone is $460 million in 2022, growing eightfold since 2010. there is one company that could significantly alter Putin’s lockdown of the television space. Eutelsat SA, the French satellite company, operates the 36°E orbital position, from which more than 25 percent of Russians receive their television signal.”
Phillipoff, a co-founder of the Denis Diderot Committee, added: “Our main interest in Eutelsat is not simply to punish a Western company that continues to profit from Russia – there are already more than enough of such targets. Eutelsat is special because of the number of Russians with satellite dishes fixed to the 36°E position. Tricolor and NTV+, two Russian pay-TV operators, lease capacity on this satellite which has attracted more than 15 million households as subscribers.”
“Eutelsat is the best starting point,” he stated. “If their management continues to refuse to open 36°E, then sanctions must be applied to force their hand. Western governments should be prepared to step in with funding to exploit this opportunity in Putin’s propaganda monopoly within Russia itself.”