Ofcom revokes RT's licence to broadcast in the UK

by Eric Munch (Observer) posted on 18 March, 2022   (public)

ANO TV Novosti – RT's licensee – found not fit and proper to hold a UK broadcast licence

Ofcom announced on 18 March 2022 the revocation of RT's licence to broadcast in the UK, with immediate effect. The decision comes as Ofcom is still conducting 29 investigations into the due impartiality of RT programmes regarding the Russian Federation's invasion of Ukraine.

  • ANO TV Novosti had been sent a Notice on 8 March 2022, informing it that Ofcom was minded that it could no longer be considered "fit and proper" for the purposes of the Broadcasting Act 1990 and the Broadcasting Act 1996, and that Ofcom was therefore minded to revoke its licences to provide the RT and RT (Europe) services.
  • It was given until 10 March 2022 to make written representations on the matter and offered the opportunity to attend an Oral Hearing on 11 March 2022. Upon ANO TV Novosti's request, Ofcom extended the deadline for representations to 15 March and moved the Oral Hearing to 16 March 2022. The licensee declined to provide further representations and did not attend the hearing, considering that the time for preparation was too short and that they did not have access to legal representation in the UK.
  • Representations sent by ANO TV Novosti in response to the 29 ongoing investigations on 4,10 and 14 March 2022 were taken into account in Ofcom's decision.

Ties with the Russian Federation

Ofcom found that the responsible coverage of the events in Ukraine appears impossible, given ANO TV Novosti financial dependence on a state whose head of state, President Putin, has been personally sanctioned by the UK, along with RT's Editor in Chief, Margarita Simonyan. Ofcom also noted that ANO TV Novosti is the state broadcaster of a state which has banned the use of the word "war" to describe the situation in Ukraine, therefore threatening any Russia-based news providers who would not comply with the state's narrative.

ANO TV Novosti's compliance history

Ofcom recorded 15 breaches of the Broadcasting code by ANO TV Novosti between 2012 (year of its first licence acquisition) and 2017 – 8 of which involved breaches of the rules on due accuracy and/or impartiality and one was for materially misleading content. Despite several meetings between senior RT staff and Ofcom and the provision of specific guidance, 7 new breaches were recorded in 2018, all relating to due impartiality. Ofcom regarded these as a serious and repeated failure of compliance and imposed a financial sanction of £200,000. ANO TV Novosti's compliance history tends to indicate particular difficulty to comply with the due impartiality rule of the Broadcasting code relating to matters of Russian foreign policy.

Ofcom's conclusion

Ofcom has concluded that, given ANO TV Novosti's history of difficulties to comply with the Ofcom's guidance and its particular relationship with the Russian Federation, it "is not possible to be satisfied, on the facts today, that ANO TV Novosti can be a responsible broadcaster".

Ofcom also notes, regarding the proportionality of their decision, that its impact on ANO TV Novosti's freedom of expression is mitigated by the fact that, at the time of the decision, it is not currently broadcasting on any regulated broadcast platforms in the UK, following the decision and regulation by the Council of the European Union on 2 March 2022.

Further information on measures taken against Russian state-owned media outlets:

The European Audiovisual Observatory has published on 17 March 2022 a note discussing the legal and institutional framework behind the EU sanctions.
The EPRA Secretariat has published two articles (on 1 March and 7 March 2022) on the reactions of media regulators in Europe and continues to monitor the situation.


Source: Ofcom



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