Accused earlier this year by the French President of spreading disinformation, Russia’s RT television network is now launching a channel in France.
RT said the launch would cost Moscow 20 million euros and would take place before Christmas 2017.
RT, which is entirely funded by the Russian government, already runs a news website in French.
The French-language channel will broadcast around the clock, with 10 hours live broadcast per day and a news bulletin every hour. RT aims to hire up to 150 people, including 50 journalists. Due to its dubious reputation, however, RT is reportedly having trouble attracting high-profile French journalists.
In May, President Emmanuel Macron accused RT and the Russian state-funded news agency Sputnik of seeking to influence the 2017 presidential election campaign and branded both outlets “spreaders of propaganda and lies.”
To counter the criticism it is already facing in France, the channel is putting together an “ethics committee.”
One of its three board members will be former French senator Thierry Mariani, a long-time backer of Vladimir Putin. In 2015, a group of French parliamentarians led by Mariani visited Crimea to praise its illegal annexation by Moscow and to condemn EU sanctions against Russia. At the time, the French Foreign Minister had denounced the visit as “a violation of international law.”
The “ethics committee” will include economist Jacques Sapir, also well-known for his pro-Kremlin views. Sapir hosts a show on Radio Sputnik.
The third member, a historian of Russia widely criticised for her racist and anti-Muslim remarks, has withdrawn from the board.
RT in France will be available online and in the television package provided by Bouygues Telecom. Negotiations are reportedly in their final stages with Free and according to French media reports, SFP and Orange are currently “in talks” with RT.
Since unveiling its English-language version in 2005, RT has launched versions in Arabic and Spanish. It has offices in the United Kingdom and the United States. In Germany, it operates the video news agency Ruptly and has announced plans to open a German-language television channel in 2018.
The group claims to reach 700 million viewers in more than 100 countries. According to reporters who left the outlets, both RT and Sputnik receive weekly editorial instructions from the Kremlin.