UPDATED: U.K. media regulator Ofcom on Wednesday opened a further 12 investigations into the due impartiality of programs on the Russia-backed RT news channel. This takes the total number of RT programs under investigation to 27.
“We are very concerned by the volume of programmes on RT that are raising potential issues under the Broadcasting Code, and as we progress our investigations we are considering whether RT should retain a U.K. license,” Ofcom said in a statement.
Meanwhile, U.K. Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries has said that the channel is no longer available in the U.K.
“RT is no longer available on British TVs. Channel is now down across Sky, Freeview and Freesat. The Russian dictator will now find it harder to spread his disinformation and lies,” Dorries tweeted.
RT is no longer available on British TVs. Channel is now down across Sky, Freeview and Freesat. The Russian dictator will now find it harder to spread his disinformation and lies. #WeStandWithUkraine 🇺🇦 https://t.co/xON4JSvYF8
— Nadine Dorries (@NadineDorries) March 2, 2022
Earlier this week, Ofcom commenced 15 investigations into the due impartiality of news programs on RT.
“We have observed a significant increase in the number of programs on the RT service that warrant investigation under our Broadcasting Code,” Ofccom said in a statement on Monday. “When dealing with major matters such as the crisis in the Ukraine, all Ofcom licensees must comply with the special impartiality requirements in our Code. These rules require broadcasters to take additional steps to preserve due impartiality – namely by including and giving due weight to a wide range of significant views.”
Ofcom said that the investigations relate to 15 editions of the hourly “News” program on RT on Feb. 27. The investigations “will be expedited, given the severity and urgency of the current crisis,” Ofcom said, adding that the body expects “full cooperation” from RT.
The licences for the RT service are held by ANO TV Novosti.
“Given the scale and gravity of the crisis in Ukraine, audiences expect to be able to trust and rely on duly impartial broadcast news. When reporting on an armed conflict, we recognize it can be difficult for broadcasters to verify information and events, but it is imperative that they make every effort to do so. They must also explain clearly to audiences where there is uncertainty or where events are disputed,” Ofcom chief executive Melanie Dawes said.
“Supporting a fair and free media is central to Ofcom’s work. We take this responsibility – and our duty to protect audiences and uphold trust in news – extremely seriously. Freedom of expression is a cornerstone of our approach and fundamental to our democracy.”
“Given the serious on-going situation in Ukraine, we will be concluding our investigations into RT as a matter of urgency,” Dawes added.
Last week, the U.K. government had ordered a review into RT’s operations via Ofcom after Russia invaded Ukraine. The channel has been fined several times by Ofcom in the past.
On Sunday, the European Union said it would ban the Kremlin-backed Russia Today and Sputnik media outlets.