UPDATE: The Russian establishment has responded to U.K. media regulator Ofcom revoking the Russian-backed RT channel’s licence to broadcast in the country.
Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said: “This is a continuation of the madness which is going on in America and Europe – it is anti-Russian madness. This is yet another step that crudely limits freedom of speech.”
RT’s deputy editor-in-chief Anna Belkina said: “Ofcom has shown the U.K. public, and the regulatory community internationally, that, despite a well-constructed facade of independence, it is nothing more than a tool of government, bending to its media-suppressing will.”
“By ignoring RT’s completely clean record of four consecutive years and stating purely political reasons tied directly to the situation in Ukraine and yet completely unassociated to RT’s operations, structure, management or editorial output, Ofcom has falsely judged RT to not be ‘fit and proper’ and in doing so robbed the U.K. public of access to information,” Belkina added.
Earlier, U.K media regulator Ofcom had on Friday revoked the RT channel’s licence to broadcast in the country with immediate effect.
“We have done so on the basis that we do not consider RT’s licensee, ANO TV Novosti, fit and proper to hold a UK broadcast licence,” Ofcom had said in a statement.
The decision arrives during 29 ongoing investigations by Ofcom 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 [$263,000] for previous due impartiality breaches,” Ofcom said.
In this context, Ofcom launched a separate investigation to determine whether ANO TV Novosti is fit and proper to retain its licence to broadcast and took into account several factors including that RT is is funded by the Russian state and new laws in Russia which criminalize 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,” Ofcom stated.
RT is currently off air in the U.K. thanks to sanctions imposed by the European Union since the Russian invasion of Ukraine commenced. The EU banned the Russia Today and Sputnik channels in February.
Ofcom chief executive Melanie Dawes said: “Freedom of expression is something we guard fiercely in this country, and the bar for action on broadcasters is rightly set very high. Following an independent regulatory process, we have today found that RT is not fit and proper to hold a licence in the U.K. As a result we have revoked RT’s U.K. broadcasting licence.”