RT broke rules with biased Skripal coverage

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Kremlin-funded news organisation RT (Russia Today) broadcast biased material following the poisoning of former Russian spy Sergei Skripal, Ofcom has ruled.

In addition to violations over its coverage of the attempted murder, the broadcaster failed to meet impartiality standards in its reports on the conflicts in Ukraine and Syria.

Broadcasting regulator Ofcom is considering whether to impose a statutory sanction against RT, which could see the broadcaster’s licence revoked.

A spokesperson for Ofcom told Sky News: “Our investigations found that RT failed to maintain due impartiality in seven news and current affairs programmes over a six-week period.

“Taken together, these breaches represent a serious failure to comply with our broadcasting rules.

“We have told RT that we are minded to consider imposing a statutory sanction for these breaches. The broadcaster now has the opportunity to make representations to us, which we will consider before proceeding further.”

A spokesperson for RT said the broadcaster was “extremely disappointed by Ofcom’s conclusions in what were almost all self-initiated investigations into RT by the regulator.

“We operate under rules outlined by the regulator, and always strive to abide by them.

“It appears Ofcom has failed to fully take on-board what we said in response to its investigations and, in particular, has not paid due regard to the rights of a broadcaster and the audience.

“We are reviewing the findings Ofcom has put forward and will decide shortly the nature of our next steps,” the spokesperson concluded.

In response, the culture secretary, Jeremy Wright MP, said: “Russia Today’s mask as an impartial news provider is clearly slipping.

“We know some foreign regimes will use any vehicle at their disposal to sow discord in the West.

“It is vital that as a society we remain vigilant to the spread of harmful disinformation and Ofcom has strong powers to tackle it where it occurs in broadcast news.”

RT broke rules with biased Skripal coverage
Russian intelligence operatives were identified in Salisbury

Mr Skripal and his daughter Yulia were poisoned in March by a rare chemical weapon known to have been manufactured by the Russian state.

The UK and its allies have accused the Kremlin of directing the attack, which caused the death of Dawn Sturgess because of the way in which the chemical weapon was handled.

A police officer who attended the scene of the crime was admitted to hospital after being exposed to the nerve agent.

The Russian state has denied involvement, even after the men whom Britain accused of perpetrating the attack were identified as intelligence operatives.

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RT broke rules with biased Skripal coverage


Russian channels accused of spreading disinformation

While Ofcom’s findings were against the English-language broadcaster, Russian-language television channels have also come in for criticism in recent weeks.

A letter sent to Britain from the Latvian foreign ministry and seen by Sky News has warned that “hardcore propaganda” against the UK and its allies was being aired by two Russian-language television channels registered in London.

Ofcom is investigating NTV Mir Baltic over a news programme transmitted on 2 and 3 April, almost exactly a month after the attempted assassination of Mr Skripal.

Baiba Braze, the Latvian ambassador to the UK, said what she regards as disinformation put out by the channels makes the Kremlin-funded broadcaster RT look mild.

“For us Russia Today seems just like little flowers. It is not so bad,” she said in an interview, using RT’s former name.

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“These TV channels, these Russian language TV channels that are broadcast into our country they are really hard-core propaganda. It is not the soft western type of Russia Today. That is why Britain should care.”