UK communication services regulator Ofcom Friday revoked Russian state-controlled broadcaster RT’s license to broadcast in the UK. This revocation is effective immediately.
UK Culture Secretary Nadine Dorrie sent a letter to Ofcom in February, accusing RT of spreading disinformation and requesting that Ofcom take action if necessary. In response to the letter, Ofcom CEO Dame Melanie Dawes stated on February 23 that the regulator recognized the gravity of the Ukrainian issue. On February 27, Ursula von der Leyen, President of the EU Commission, announced that the EU would ban RT.
As part of its full decision on Friday, Ofcom first discussed the background of the conflict in Ukraine. It cited the UN General Assembly resolution on March 2 demanding that Russia immediately end its military operations in Ukraine, as well as Russia’s new punitive “fake news” law.
Ofcom noted that it had opened 15 investigations into the “due impartiality” of news programs on the RT news channel broadcast on February 27, a further 12 investigations into the March 1 news programs, one into a documentary broadcast on March 1 and one investigation into a news program broadcast on March 2.
Although acknowledging that freedom of speech is a “fundamental human right and freedom,” Ofcom ultimately decided to revoke RT’s broadcasting license. Ofcom’s decision considered “immediate and significant” concerns about the programs broadcast, RT’s compliance history and that it appeared “impossible” for RT to comply with the Broadcasting Act 1990 and the Broadcasting Act 1996.
On its decision to revoke the license, Ofcom stated:
We take seriously the importance, in our democratic society, of a broadcaster’s right to freedom of expression and the audience’s right to receive information and ideas without undue interference. We also take seriously the importance of maintaining audiences’ trust and public confidence in the UK’s broadcasting regulatory regime. Taking all of this into account, as well as our immediate and repeated compliance concerns, we have concluded that we cannot be satisfied that RT can be a responsible broadcaster in the current circumstances.