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First it was blocked from YouTube. Then it was taken off the TV listings completely. Now in the most damaging move to date, RT (formerly Russia Today) has had its licence to broadcast in Britain revoked with “immediate effect”.
Ofcom, the media watchdog, has said that ANO TV-Novosti, RT’s Kremlin-controlled parent body, is “not fit and proper to hold a UK broadcast licence”. For the last few weeks, RT has been under investigation for its distorted coverage of the war in Ukraine.
Many will “question more” (RT’s motto), and ask: what does the ban achieve? Foreign Secretary Liz Truss previously warned that any action on RT is likely to be met with retaliation from Vladimir Putin on the likes of the BBC in Moscow.
RT is still available to watch online (it had a viewership of 3,000 in 2019), but the future of RT’s dedicated UK channel is in tatters.
Britain’s version of the Kremlin-backed “news” channel – hosted in the past by the likes of Alex Salmond – has courted controversy ever since it launched in 2014.
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In 2018, RT was fined £200,000 by Ofcom for its inaccurate reporting of the Salisbury nerve agent attacks. Nevertheless, it has been praised for its “commitment to truth and balance” by none other than the British National Party.
State-sponsored disinformation aside, RT has provided some memorable moments. Nigel Farage was once left red-faced after a child, dressed as the Queen to “knight” him, questioned if he hated foreigners.
Gone but not forgotten.