RT fined £200,000 for “serious failures” of UK broadcast rules

Mark Johnson's picture
by Mark Johnson

UK communications regulator Ofcom has fined Russian TV news channel RT £200,000 for “serious failures” to comply with its  broadcasting rules.

Ofcom, which has rules in place requiring broadcast news to be presented with due impartiality, also said the Russian TV channel must broadcast a summary of its findings to its viewers.

Ofcom said an investigation found that RT, which broadcasts in the UK from studios based in Soho, Central London, failed to preserve due impartiality in seven news and current affairs programmes between 17 March and 26 April 2018.

Taken together, these breaches represented serious and repeated failures of compliance with Ofcom rules. The regulator said it was particularly concerned by the frequency of RT’s rule-breaking over a relatively short period of time.

Political matters

The programmes were mostly in relation to major matters of political controversy and current public policy – namely the UK Government’s response to the events in Salisbury, and the Syrian conflict.

Ofcom issued the ruling following a fair and transparent process, which included receiving written and oral representations from the licensee.

“We consider this sanction to be appropriate and proportionate”, Ofcom said in a statement. “It takes into account the additional steps that RT has taken to ensure its compliance since we launched our investigations; and that we have not recorded any further breaches of our due impartiality rules against RT to date.

Ofcom will await the conclusion of RT’s application for judicial review of our breach decisions before enforcing the sanction.

RT’s response

RT immediately issued a scathing response to the ruling, saying that Ofcom’s actions were contrary to the law.

“It is very wrong for Ofcom to have issued a sanction against RT on the basis of its breach findings that are currently under Judicial Review by the High Court in London”, the channel said. 

“RT went to court over Ofcom’s December findings against our network because we believe that they were reached in a manner contrary to the law and were wrong. 

“Last month we received confirmation from a judge at a hearing in the High Court that, despite Ofcom's opposition, our case against Ofcom should proceed.

RT - Scale of fine “inappropriate”

“And while we continue to contest the very legitimacy of the breach decisions themselves, we find the scale of proposed penalty to be particularly inappropriate and disproportionate per Ofcom’s own track record. 

“It is notable that cases that involved hate speech and incitement to violence have been subject to substantially lower fines. 

“It is astonishing that, in contrast, Ofcom sees RT's programmes – which it thought should have presented more alternative points of view – as worthy of greater sanction than programmes containing hate speech and incitement to violence.

“We are duly considering further legal options.”

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