Britain’s media regulator, Ofcom, said it had conducted 29 investigations into RT’s coverage of the Russian invasion, taking into account the channel’s ties to the Russian state and new Russian laws that “effectively criminalize” any journalism that departs from the Kremlin’s account of the war.
“Freedom of expression is something we very closely guard in this country, and the standard for broadcasters is extremely high,” Ofcom CEO Melanie Dawes said in a statement. “Following an independent regulatory process, we have today found that RT is not appropriate and appropriate to obtain a UK license. As a result, we have revoked RT’s UK broadcasting license.”
The European Union had already banned RT from broadcasting as part of sweeping sanctions imposed on Moscow in response to the invasion of Ukraine.
This measure stopped the activities of RT broadcasting in the European Union, or directed at it, affecting it UK, German, French and Spanish networks. Ofcom confirmed in its statement on Friday that the channel was already off broadcasting in the UK due to EU sanctions.
The Kremlin described the British move as “anti-Russian madness.”
“This is a continuation of the anti-Russian madness that is going on in Europe and the United States,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters. “This is another step to blatantly restrict freedom of expression and violate all laws related to the work of the media,” he added.
RT’s ability to show President Vladimir Putin’s talking points around the world has been significantly restricted in recent weeks as cable car companies and social media channels have abandoned the broadcaster.
DirecTV, one of the only major TV providers in the US She said earlier this month that she would cut ties immediately. A few days later, RT America decided to stop production and lay off most of its employees.
Ofcom’s move could lead to further retaliation by the Russian authorities against British broadcasters such as the BBC. Russian media regulators restricted access to the BBC’s website earlier this week, having previously taken similar action against its Russian language site.
“I think this is only the beginning of the response to the information war waged by the West against Russia,” Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said in Telegram on Wednesday.
RT had repeatedly violated UK broadcasting rules, long before the invasion of Ukraine.
In July 2019, Ofcom was fined £200,000 ($263,000) for repeatedly breaking the rules of impartiality in its coverage of the Skripal poisonings and the conflict in Syria. It found that RT failed to maintain “due integrity” on seven programs broadcast in March and April 2018.
The programs aired after the poisoning of former Russian double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter. UK authorities said they were victims of an attack carried out by agents of the Russian military intelligence, the Russian Military Intelligence.
RT said on Friday that the British ban was “political”.
“For many years in the UK they have been looking for an official reason to close RT, but they have tried to preserve the appearance of freedom of expression. Now the masks have been removed,” the channel said in a statement on its Telegram account.
– Oliver Darcy, Chris Liakos, and Charles Riley contributed to this article.
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