The UK broadcast regulator OfCom is investigating English-language Russian TV news station RT (formerly Russia Today) for seven cases of “due impartiality” or bias. RT’s parent company is TV Novosti, which is “financed by the Russian Federation,” making it state-funded TV, OfCom explained.
“Until recently, TV Novosti’s overall compliance record has not been materially out of line with other broadcasters,” OfCom said in a news release sent to iMediaEthics. “However, since the events in Salisbury, we have observed a significant increase in the number of programmes on the RT service that warrant investigation as potential breaches of the Ofcom Broadcasting Code.”
The Salisbury event OfCom referenced was the March 12 poisoning of former Russian spy Sergei V. Skripal and his daughter.
RT spokesperson Anna Belkina told iMediaEthics by e-mail, “We are pleased to see that Ofcom has acknowledged RT’s compliance record has been in line with other broadcasters – putting to bed any of the salacious political statements and challenges made against our channel. Our editorial approach has not changed since the events in Salisbury, and we will be directly addressing this matter with the regulator.”
The seven investigations concern March 17 and April 7 episodes of Sputnik, March 18 and March 30 News programs, an April 1 episode of Worlds Apart with Oksana Boyko, and April 13 and 16 episode of Crosstalk.
The investigations were announced April 18. OfCom noted that RT “has an average audience of 3,400 viewers at any given point during the day and an average weekly reach of 1.06% of adults (540,000).
OfCom previously has ruled 15 times against RT since 2012, it noted, mostly concerning “programming related to Russia’s foreign policy and related to the requirement for due impartiality.”
In 2015, OfCom ruled against four RT programs for breaking due impartiality guidelines.
In 2014, Russia Today reporter Sara First quit over RT’s coverage of the Malaysian Airlines crash in Ukraine, saying “every single day we’re lying and finding sexier ways to do it.”