Monday 15 July 2019

Kremlin-backed broadcaster seeks judicial review over UK watchdog ruling

Ofcom has said RT failed to give due weight to a wide range of voices on a matter of major political controversy.

Forensic officers in gas masks in Salisbury (PA)
Forensic officers in gas masks in Salisbury (PA)

By Sherna Noah, Press Association Senior Entertainment Correspondent

Kremlin-backed broadcaster RT has announced plans to take Ofcom to the High Court over the watchdog’s ruling that it breached impartiality rules with programmes in the wake of the Skripal poisoning.

Ofcom ruled in December that the RT news channel, formerly Russia Today, was not impartial in seven news and current affairs programmes which aired in the UK over a six-week period.

The programmes were mostly about the Skripal poisoning or the conflict in Syria.

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The Ofcom logo (Dominic Lipinski/PA)

Now RT has issued a statement saying that it “will be seeking judicial review of Ofcom’s decisions and process in its breach findings… against the network”.

It added: “We firmly believe that none (of the programmes) were in breach.

“RT is left with no choice other than to seek judicial review of the matter.”

It said: “None of the seven in-breach decisions against RT concluded that we had disseminated inaccurate information.

“Ofcom’s own analysis acknowledged that the network presented multiple sides in its news coverage and discussion.”

It said that its “alternative viewpoints are essential to a well-informed public debate” and that the regulator had “breached a key right of broadcasters, and more importantly of audiences.

“We are now placing the matter in the hands of the courts.”

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A police officer by a sealed off litter bin in Rollestone Street, Salisbury, Wiltshire (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

But an Ofcom spokeswoman said: “We will defend our assessment, which followed a thorough investigation under our rules.”

Diplomatic relations between the UK and Russian governments hit a new low following the poisoning of Russian ex-spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in Salisbury, Wiltshire, in March.

Ofcom said RT failed to give due weight to a wide range of voices on a matter of major political controversy.

Possible penalties could include the broadcaster being fined or even having its licence revoked.

RT’s licensee TV-Novosti alleged that Ofcom was under intense pressure from the UK Government, which the watchdog has strongly denied.

After Ofcom’s ruling, Russia’s media watchdog launched an investigation into the BBC’s websites and World News channel over alleged violations of Russian law.

Prime Minister Theresa May has previously warned that politicians appearing on RT risk being used as “propaganda tools”.

Two of the seven RT programmes featured former MP George Galloway.

PA Media

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