RT (formerly Russia Today) has been fined £200,000 by Ofcom over “serious and repeated failures” to report with due impartiality on issues including the Salisbury Novichok poisonings and the Syrian conflict.
The sanction, which Ofcom has said it considers “appropriate and proportionate”, relates to seven news and current affairs programmes aired on the Kremlin-backed broadcaster between 17 March and 26 April 2018.
They include two news bulletins, two episodes of weekly show Sputnik, hosted by ex-MP George Galloway, and three of flagship show Crosstalk, hosted by journalist Peter Lavelle.
RT was found in to have breached Ofcom rules in covering “the poisoning of Sergei and Yulia Skripal in Salisbury on 4 March 2018, the armed conflict in Syria, and the Ukrainian Government’s position on Nazism and its treatment of Roma Gypsies”.
Ofcom said: “Taken together, these breaches represented serious and repeated failures of compliance with our rules. We were particularly concerned by the frequency of RT’s rule-breaking over a relatively short period of time.”
Ofcom will also order RT to broadcast a summary of its findings, but said it will await the outcome of a judicial review into them , filed by RT in the High Court, before enforcing the sanctions.
The licence holder for the RT news channel is is Autonomous Non-Profit Organisation TV Novosti (ANO TV Novosti).
A spokesperson for RT said: “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.
“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.”
The spokesperson added: “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.”