Ofcom fine against RT disproportionate, part of UK’s anti-Russian campaign

Summary

By fining RT for its alleged breach of due impartiality rules, UK media regulator Ofcom is restricting the activities of Russian media for their willingness to cover controversial issues, and is thus complicit in the UK government’s ongoing anti-Russian campaign.

The £200,000 fine is disproportionate compared with penalties previously imposed on other outlets, even those found broadcasting hate speech and inciting violence.

Disproof

Recurring disinformation claim painting UK institutions as inherently Russophobic and biased toward mainstream media outlets. More broadly, the report advances the meta-narrative stating that provision of "alternative viewpoints" is the sole raison d'etre of Moscow's media assets abroad. Read EUvsDisinfo analysis of this deceptive claim here.

Contrary to the tone of the article, Ofcom does not do the UK government's bidding; it is an independent watchdog funded by companies it regulates. Accordingly, the type and severity of the penalty imposed on RT was determined by Ofcom's publicly available penalty guidelines (pp. 2-3), as well as precedents cited in the report accompanying the sanction decision (pp. 30-36). The latter document states that one factor contributing to the size of the fine included RT's commission of "multiple breaches of due impartiality rules, which occur[ed] during a concentrated period of time" (p. 8). Indeed, the seven breaches committed in the space of one month (p. 3) account for nearly half of RT's due impartiality violations since 2012 (ibid., p. 10).

Ofcom's report also deals with the claim that the fine is disproportionate when compared to penalties previously imposed on other channels. The decisions cited by RT are "over five years old and were decided before" the current edition of penalty guidelines, and were made against channels "with less access to funding […] and in some cases much better compliance records than RT" (p. 20).

See here for background information about this case.

publication/media

  • Reported in: Issue 159
  • DATE OF PUBLICATION: 26/07/2019
  • Language/target audience: English
  • Country: UK, Russia
  • Keywords: Propaganda, Anti-Russian, Media, Russophobia
  • Outlet: RT (rt.com)
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