UK media regulator says Russia Today broke impartiality rules in 29 programs concerning conflict in Donbas News
Jürg Vollmer / Maiakinfo, CC BY-SA 3.0 , via Wikimedia Commons
UK media regulator says Russia Today broke impartiality rules in 29 programs concerning conflict in Donbas

UK communication services regulator Ofcom Monday said that international news network RT, which is funded by the Russian government and was taken off the air in the UK in March, broke impartiality rules in 29 programs from February 27 to March 2, during the initial stages of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Ofcom found that RT did not deliver impartial reporting concerning the conflict in Ukraine’s Donbas region and released its findings in a report.

The report consolidates the various claims of bias into three cases where RT breached impartiality regulations. Ofcom detailed various claims made by RT, which included that the Ukrainian military was shelling residential areas and that neo-fascist armed groups fighting against Russian soldiers were using terrorist tactics. Ofcom reported that RT did not adequately cover alternative viewpoints concerning these and other assertions.

Ofcom licensees are required to report on matters of “major political controversy and major matters relating to current public policy” in an impartial manner. Ofcom determined that the ongoing war in Ukraine was a major political controversy and a major public policy matter. The regulator also held that RT failed in its duty to cover the events with “due impartiality.” Ofcom says that this standard does not require stations to give equal time to all viewpoints surrounding an event, but is meant to ensure that broadcasters report on crucial developments in a neutral way.

Concluding each of its decisions, Ofcom said that it “considers that these breaches were serious, and we are minded to consider them for the imposition of a statutory sanction.” RT’s parent company TV Novosti may face financial penalties if sanctioned.

A statement from RT in response to the decisions said:

[T]he logic of these decisions mirrors the one guiding their delivery many months after Ofcom’s revocation of RT’s license: it is a trial after a conviction and RT is guilty of being Russian and daring to voice a point of view and show facts unacceptable to the British political and media establishments.

RT’s television station was banned in the UK on March 18 after Ofcom revoked its broadcast license due to “immediate and significant” concerns regarding “due impartiality” and a history of breaching Ofcom regulations. In February, the EU banned RT for disinformation and “sow[ing] division.”