Ofcom Revokes RT’s Broadcast Licence

Russian internet © Pavel Ignatov Shutterstock 2012

UK regulator revokes RT’s broadcast licence with immediate effect, due to its ties to the Russian state, plus previous impartiality breaches

The United Kingdom has followed the action of the European Union and officially revoked the broadcast licence of RT.

The UK’s communication regulator Ofcom announced on Friday that it has “revoked RT’s licence to broadcast in the UK, with immediate effect.”

The regulator said that it does not consider RT’s licensee, ANO TV Novosti, fit and proper to hold a UK broadcast licence.


RT decision

Ofcom pointed out that there are 29 ongoing investigations into the due impartiality of RT’s news and current affairs coverage of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

“We consider 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 for previous due impartiality breaches,” said Ofcom.

In this context, Ofcom launched a separate investigation to determine whether ANO TV Novosti is fit and proper to retain its licence to broadcast.

Ofcom said that its investigation took into account of a number of factors, including RT’s relationship with the Russian Federation. The probe recognised that RT is funded by the Russian state, which has recently invaded a neighbouring sovereign country.

Ofcom said that it also noted 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.

“We consider that given these constraints it appears impossible for RT to comply with the due impartiality rules of our Broadcasting Code in the circumstances,” said Ofcom.

Moot point?

The regulator admitted that its decision is a bit of a moot point considering that RT is currently off air in the UK, as a result of sanctions imposed by the EU since the invasion of Ukraine commenced.

All the major tech platforms including Google, YouTube and Facebook have also already blocked Russia’s RT, and Sputnik.

“We take seriously the importance, in our democratic society, of a broadcaster’s right to freedom of expression and the audience’s right to receive information and ideas without undue interference,” said Ofcom. “We also take seriously the importance of maintaining audiences’ trust and public confidence in the UK’s broadcasting regulatory regime.”

The regulator said that taking all of this into account, coupled with Ofcom’s repeated compliance concerns, it has concluded that it 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.

“Freedom of expression is something we guard fiercely in this country, and the bar for action on broadcasters is rightly set very high,” said 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.”

Iron curtain

Ofcom’s move is the latest development, as most of the world seeks to place Russia firmly behind a tech and business ‘iron curtain’, in order to isolate the country for its invasion of Ukraine.

Yesterday Kaspersky Lab founder Eugene Kaspersky railed against Germany’s decision to recommend the uninstallation of Kaspersky antivirus (AV) products in the country.

The US and UK recommended this action years ago. And now it seems as though Italy could be moving to do the same.

It is likely that any entities associated with Russia going forward, may also be caught up in similar punitive actions.