RT UK

RT UK, also known as Russia Today, was a free-to-air television news channel based in the United Kingdom. It was part of the RT network, a Russian state-controlled international television network funded by the federal tax budget of the Russian government.[1] The channel's head was Nikolay Bogachikhin.[2] Launched in 2014, it ran live broadcasts for seven years and ceased broadcasting from London in July 2021.

RT UK
CountryUnited Kingdom
Broadcast areaUnited Kingdom
NetworkRT
HeadquartersMillbank Tower, London
Programming
Language(s)English
Picture format1080i HDTV
(downscaled to 16:9 576i for the SDTV feed)
Ownership
Owner(ANO) TV-Novosti (on behalf of Russia Today TV UK Limited)
Sister channelsRT International
RT America
RT France
RT Arabic
RT Documentary
RT en Español
RT Deutsch
History
Launched30 October 2014
Closed2 March 2022
Links
Websitert.com/uk

RT UK served as the home and production base of RT's UK-based programmes. The channel's studios were located in Millbank Tower. Prior to its closure, the channel offered four hours of its own programming per day, airing RT UK News Monday through Friday at 7 pm, 8 pm, 9 pm and 10 pm. The RT UK News anchors were Bill Dod and Kate Partridge. RT International now broadcasts in its place, though the channel is still available online through RT's websites and social media.

The UK media regulator Ofcom has repeatedly found RT to have breached its rules on impartiality and on one occasion found it had broadcast "materially misleading" content.[3][4][5] On 18 March 2022, Ofcom cancelled RT's UK broadcasting licence "with immediate effect" after concluding the outlet was not "fit and proper" or a "responsible broadcaster".[6]

Launch

RT UK was launched on 30 October 2014 and closed for TV broadcasting on 30 July 2021. The channel's coverage focused on the United Kingdom. RT presenter Afshin Rattansi stated that the channel's position was "to challenge dominant power structures in Britain by broadcasting live and original programming with a progressive UK focus", and it was "not subject to the metropolitan elite's London bias" since its "news will come from right across the country".[7]

Richard Sambrook, former director of global news at the BBC and director of the Centre of Journalism at Cardiff University was quoted as saying "It's a surprising move to focus resources on the UK. It's not a commercial proposition, therefore the main purpose must be to gain influence. It's about soft power for the Kremlin".[8] In a pre-launch statement, RT correspondent Polly Boiko said "So much is made of how RT is funded. It's been cast as the Big Bad Wolf of the news media landscape," and "I think many of us... see the launch of RT UK as an opportunity to shake off the accusations levelled at the channel".[9]

Incidents

Relations with British regulators (2014–19)

Ahead of the launch of its UK-specific broadcasts in 2014, RT said that its advertisements promoting the channel had been rejected by ad agencies because it was felt they would violate UK laws on political advertising. The network posted versions of the adverts on billboards and its website with the word "redacted" on them in protest. The UK Advertising Standards Authority said it had not banned the ads or even received any complaint about them.[10]

The UK broadcast regulator Ofcom has repeatedly reprimanded the international version of RT for its failure to remain impartial.[8] In July 2014, London-based RT International correspondent Sara Firth resigned, after five years with the channel, calling its coverage of the MH17 disaster, the "straw that broke the camel's back".[11] Shortly after RT UK was launched, Ofcom said sanctions would be imposed if further breaches of the broadcasting code occurred.[12]

In September 2015, Ofcom found RT in breach of the impartiality rules in its coverage of events in Ukraine and Syria. It also upheld the complaint by the BBC that allegations made in an episode of The Truthseeker that a BBC Panorama film, Saving Syria's Children, had faked parts of a report on a chemical weapon attack in Syria were "materially misleading".[13][14][15] Another episode of The Truthseeker, named "Genocide of Eastern Ukraine", stated that the Ukrainian government was deliberately bombing civilians, had murdered and tortured journalists, and had crucified babies. Ukrainian army forces were accused of "ethnic cleansing" and were compared to Nazis during World War Two. The only response to these allegations shown in the broadcast was a caption reading, "Kiev claims it is not committing genocide, denies casualty reports", which appeared on screen for six seconds. According to Ofcom, the broadcast had "little or no counterbalance or objectivity".[13] A spokesperson for the media regulator said "Ofcom found that RT broadcast content that was either materially misleading or not duly impartial. These are significant failings and we are therefore requiring RT to broadcast two clear statements on our decision which correct these failures".[16]

In December 2018, Ofcom ruled that seven programmes broadcast by RT between 17 March and 26 April of that year, in the wake of the Salisbury nerve agent attacks, had breached the UK's impartiality rules. The BBC reported that RT was "extremely disappointed by Ofcom's conclusions".[17][18] RT was fined £200,000 but kept its licence to broadcast in the UK.[19]

Threatened closure of banking facilities

In October 2016, RT published a letter sent to "Russia Today TV UK Ltd" by NatWest bank informing the company that it intended to cease the banking facilities provided to the company.[20][21] RT's editor in Moscow, Margarita Simonyan, tweeted in Russian "They closed our accounts in Britain. All of them. 'Decision not to be discussed'. Long live freedom of speech!" Russian MPs, the foreign ministry, and human rights officials condemned the move.[22]

The Russian embassy in London described the move as an "openly political decision". The British government, which owned the majority of shares in the group since the 2008 financial crisis, denied responsibility for the bank's actions.[20][22] NatWest subsequently said that it had written to one of RT's suppliers, not to the station itself, and that it would review the decision. RT said the supplier provided all RT services in the UK.[20]

The decision by NatWest to end banking services was reversed in late January 2017.[23]

Criticism of coverage (2016–2022)

Oliver Kamm wrote in The Times in October 2016: "For purportedly expert analysis of world events, RT turns to an assortment of racists, neo-Nazis, UFO buffs, 9/11 conspiracy theorists and obscure fantasists. Admittedly it's also been commended for balance and fairness – by the British National Party".[24] He continued: "This is not a normal news outlet but a conspiracy of fraudsters in the service of a murderous autocracy".[24] In The Observer, Nick Cohen wrote in November 2014 that the channel "feeds the huge western audience that wants to believe that human rights are a sham and democracy a fix. Believe that and you will ask: what right have we to criticise Putin? At least he is honest in his way".[25]

In late February 2022, following Russia's invasion of Ukraine, a number of British journalists based in RT's offices in Moscow and at RT UK's offices in London resigned from the network in response to its coverage of the incident.[26] Former First Minister of Scotland Alex Salmond suspended his RT talk show, The Alex Salmond Show, on 24 February after receiving public criticism following the invasion.[27] According to The Times, four journalists "publicly announced their resignation, while others are said to have quietly left RT's London bureau".[28] YouTube banned access to all RT and Sputnik channels on the platform from Europe and Britain.[lower-alpha 1][28]

On 2 March 2022, RT UK's SD Freeview channel 234 went off the air in the afternoon, with RT HD on Freeview channel 113 following an hour later at about 4:45pm. Both channels were replaced by a placeholder message saying that the service was unavailable.[29] On the same day, Sky removed channel 511, which hosted RT, due to the ongoing situation in Ukraine.[30][31]

Ofcom revocation of licence (2022)

In 2022, following the invasion of Ukraine by Russia, Ofcom looked into whether RT had breached impartiality rules regarding its coverage of the conflict.[32] Although the European Union proposed banning the channel across all its member states,[lower-alpha 2] this was opposed by Liz Truss, then British foreign secretary, who feared it may lead to an official ban on the BBC and other British news outlets in Russia.[34]

Ofcom revoked RT's UK broadcasting licence "with immediate effect" on 18 March 2022 after concluding the outlet was not "fit and proper" or a "responsible broadcaster".[6] In particular, Ofcom said that Russian laws against disinformation concerning the Russian invasion of Ukraine meant that RT could not report the invasion responsibly.[35] At the time of the ruling, Ofcom had 29 open investigations regarding RT's coverage of the invasion.[36] The ruling only concerned the right to broadcast in the UK; RT's ability to broadcast online was not affected.[37] Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov criticised the ban, saying it was "continuing the anti-Russian madness that is happening in America and Europe".[38]

RT UK programming

  • Going Underground (2014–2022) with Afshin Rattansi[39][40]
  • In the Now (Anissa Naouai) [41]
  • Keiser Report (2009–2022) with Max Keiser[42]
  • Sam Delaney's News Thing (2015–2018) with Sam Delaney[43]
  • Sputnik (2013–2022) with George Galloway[44]
  • The Alex Salmond Show (2017–2022) with Alex Salmond
  • Venture Capital (Katie Pilbeam)[45]

RT programmes on RT UK

  • Boom Bust (Ameera David, Bianca Facchinei, & Edward Harrison) from RT America[46]
  • CrossTalk and On the Money (Peter Lavelle) from RT International[47]
  • Larry King Now (Larry King) from RT America[48]
  • Politicking (Larry King) from RT America[49]
  • Redacted Tonight (Lee Camp) from RT America[50]
  • Watching the Hawks (Tyrel Ventura, Sean Stone, & Tabetha Wallace) from RT America[51]
  • SophieCo (Sophie Shevardnadze) from RT International[52]
  • The Big Picture with Thom Hartmann (Thom Hartmann) from RT America[53]
  • Worlds Apart (Oksana Boyko) from RT International[54]

On air staff

News anchors
  • Bill Dod (2014–2021)[55]
  • Kate Partridge
Correspondents
  • Laura Smith (2015–2018)[56]
  • Polly Boiko (2015–)[57]
  • Anastasia Churkina[58]

Notes

  1. Although videos and channels may appear in search results, the videos are unwatchable, with UK users given the message: "This channel is not available in your country".[28]
  2. RT DE, RT's German subsidiary, was banned in Germany during the lead-up to the conflict.[33]

References

  1. Nimmo, Ben. "Question That: RT's Military Mission". Atlantic Council-Digital Forensic Research Lab. medium.com. Retrieved 13 March 2018.
  2. "Inside Russia Today..." BBC Radio 4. 5 July 2017. Retrieved 23 January 2021.
  3. Turvill, William (15 November 2012). "Ofcom rules against Russia Today over Syria conflict report". Press Gazette. Progressive Media International. Retrieved 23 January 2016.
  4. "UK regulator Ofcom backs BBC in Russian TV case". BBC News. 21 September 2015. Retrieved 23 January 2016.
  5. Plunkett, John (10 November 2014). "Russia Today threatened with Ofcom sanctions due to bias". The Guardian. Retrieved 23 January 2016.
  6. "Russia Today has its licence to broadcast in UK cancelled with immediate effect by watchdog Ofcom". Sky News. 18 March 2022. Retrieved 18 March 2022.
  7. "RT launches dedicated UK news channel". RT UK (rt.com). Retrieved 21 March 2021.
  8. Chris Johnston (2 November 2014). "Russia Today launches UK version in new soft power onslaught". The Guardian. Retrieved 21 March 2021.
  9. Osborn, Andrew (30 October 2014). "Kremlin-funded broadcaster lauded by Putin starts TV news channel in UK". Reuters UK. Retrieved 4 August 2020.
  10. Patrick Smith (14 November 2014). "Everything You Need To Know About Russia Today UK". BuzzFeed. Retrieved 21 March 2021.
  11. Plunkett, John (18 July 2014). "Russia Today reporter resigns in protest at MH17 coverage". The Guardian. Retrieved 22 February 2015.
  12. Ennis, Stephen (16 November 2014). "Russia's global media operation under the spotlight". BBC News. Retrieved 21 March 2021.
  13. "UK regulator Ofcom backs BBC in Russian TV case". BBC News. 21 September 2015. Retrieved 23 January 2016.
  14. "Ofcom Broadcast Bulletin" (PDF). No. 288. Ofcom. 21 September 2015. Retrieved 23 January 2016.
  15. Burrell, Ian (21 September 2015). "Broadcaster RT misled viewers and breached broadcasting rules, says Ofcom". The Independent. Retrieved 27 November 2018.
  16. Jackson, Jasper (21 September 2015). "RT sanctioned by Ofcom over series of misleading and biased articles". The Guardian. Retrieved 23 January 2016.
  17. "Russian news channel RT broke TV impartiality rules, Ofcom says". BBC News Online. 20 December 2018. Retrieved 20 December 2018.
  18. "Ofcom Broadcast and On Demand Bulletin" (PDF). No. 369. Ofcom. 20 December 2018. Retrieved 8 June 2019.
  19. Waterson, Jim (26 July 2019). "RT fined £200,000 for breaching impartiality rules". The Guardian. Retrieved 21 March 2021.
  20. "RT: NatWest denies shutting accounts of Russian TV channel". BBC News. 18 October 2016. Retrieved 18 October 2016.
  21. Rothwell, James (18 October 2016). "NatWest backs down over threat to freeze Russia Today's bank account". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 18 October 2016.
  22. Harding, Luke; Walker, Shaun (17 October 2016). "Russia Today's UK bank accounts closed down, says editor". The Guardian. Retrieved 17 October 2016.
  23. Jackson, Jasper (30 January 2017). "NatWest reverses decision to close RT's bank accounts in UK". The Guardian. Retrieved 30 January 2017.{{cite news}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  24. Kamm, Oliver (18 October 2016). "It's time we turned the heat up on Putin's lie machine". The Times. London. Retrieved 18 October 2016.
  25. Cohen, Nick (8 November 2014). "Russia Today: why western cynics lap up Putin's TV poison". The Observer. London. Retrieved 24 January 2016.
  26. Gilbody-Dickerson, Claire (27 February 2022). "Russia Today hit by resignation of several UK-based journalists within hours of Putin's invasion of Ukraine". i. Retrieved 1 March 2022.
  27. "Alex Salmond suspends RT show over Ukraine invasion". BBC News. 24 February 2022. Retrieved 25 February 2022.
  28. Kanter, Jake (1 March 2022). "YouTube blocks RT channels in Britain and Europe". The Times. Retrieved 1 March 2022.
  29. "RT becomes "unavailable" on Freeview". 2 March 2022.
  30. "Russian-backed RT channel to lose Sky TV slot in UK within 24 hours". TheGuardian.com. 1 March 2022.
  31. O'Carroll, Lisa; Waterson, Jim (1 March 2022). "Russian-backed RT channel to lose Sky TV slot in UK within 24 hours". The Guardian. Retrieved 16 March 2022.
  32. "UK regulator investigates Russian channel RT over Ukraine coverage". Reuters. 28 February 2022. Retrieved 1 March 2022.
  33. Roth, Andrew (3 February 2022). "Russia to expel German broadcaster after RT blocked in Germany". The Guardian. Retrieved 1 March 2022.
  34. "Britain says a ban on Russia's RT could lead to retaliation against BBC". Reuters. 28 February 2022. Retrieved 1 March 2022.
  35. Kanter, Jake (18 March 2022). "Russia Today stripped of UK broadcasting licence by Ofcom". The Times. ISSN 0140-0460. Retrieved 18 March 2022.
  36. Woods, Ben (18 March 2022). "RT stripped of UK licence by Ofcom". The Telegraph. ISSN 0307-1235. Retrieved 18 March 2022.
  37. Waterson, Jim (18 March 2022). "Ofcom revokes UK broadcasting licence of Kremlin-backed RT TV channel". The Guardian. Retrieved 18 March 2022.
  38. Wembridge, Mark (18 March 2022). "UK watchdog revokes Russia Today's broadcast licence with immediate effect". Financial Times. Retrieved 18 March 2022.
  39. "Going Underground". RT.
  40. "Afshin Rattansi — RT". RT International.
  41. In The Now Archived 11 November 2022 at the Wayback Machine page at RT.com.
  42. Keiser Report Archived 12 January 2015 at the Wayback Machine page at the RT website
  43. "Sam Delaney's News Thing" Archived 22 December 2015 at the Wayback Machine page at the RT website
  44. "Sputnik". RT.
  45. "Venture Capital". RT English.
  46. "Boom Bust". RT International.
  47. On the Money Archived 17 August 2016 at the Wayback Machine page at RT.com.
  48. Larry King Now Archived 17 August 2016 at the Wayback Machine page at RT.com.
  49. Politicking Archived 17 August 2016 at the Wayback Machine page at RT.com.
  50. "Redacted Tonight". rt.com.
  51. "Watching the Hawks". RT International.
  52. SophieCo Archived 12 June 2016 at the Wayback Machine page at RT.com.
  53. The Big Picture Archived 11 November 2022 at the Wayback Machine page at RT.com.
  54. "Worlds Apart". rt.com.
  55. "Bill Dod — RT". RT International.
  56. "Laura Smith — RT". RT International.
  57. "Polly Boiko — RT". RT International.
  58. "Anastasia Churkina — RT". RT International.
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