Russian broadcaster fined for biased coverage
The UK’s media regulator has fined Russia’s RT £200,000 for violating broadcasting regulations, a move the Russian Foreign Ministry said was part of “an anti-Russian campaign”.
Ofcom said the Russia-funded broadcaster broke impartiality rules in its coverage of former Russian spy Sergei Skripal, Ukraine and the Syrian civil war.
Russia’s Foreign Ministry warned the British media in Russia that they would face consequences.
The ministry said Ofcom’s ruling was “part of an anti-Russian campaign designed to restrict the activities of Russian media in Britain”.
“We are carefully following the situation and remind British media working in Russia that they should be ready to face the consequences of official London’s actions,” it added.
Relations between London and Moscow plunged after March last year with the nerve-agent attack on Skripal and his daughter, Yulia. They were poisoned with Novichok, a Soviet-era, military-grade chemical weapon.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has denied any Moscow role in the attempted assassination.
Ofcom said RT news and current affairs programmes between March 17 and April 26 dealing with the Skripal poisoning, Syria and Ukraine’s position on Nazism and its treatment of Roma.
RT denied the allegations, which it said were still under investigation in London’s High Court.
“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,” the broadcaster said.
RT is often dismissed as a propaganda arm of the Kremlin.
The “deluge of disinformation” produced by RT and Sputnik was a vital component of Russia’s media strategy, according to Robert Elliott, CEO of the Zinc Network, a communications agency, writing in the Guardian.
Elliott wrote: “Evidence is mounting to suggest they routinely disseminate stories designed to sow division in the west and pursue the foreign policy goals of the governments that back them, consciously or otherwise. According to a report published by the Policy Institute at King’s College London, RT and Sputnik distributed no fewer than seven conspiracy theories about the Skripal poisoning.
“The report also found that claims made by Russian state media about the country’s advanced weaponry were reported as fact in UK newspapers without verification.
“Disinformation does not consist solely of fabricated news stories, Photoshopped images or wild conspiracy theories presented as fact. It is often more nuanced, more sophisticated – and more effective – than policymakers or the public realise,” Elliott added.
Some liberals blame Russian disinformation for Trump and Brexit. Picture credit: Eurasia Times