U.K. Regulator to Probe Kremlin-Backed News Network Over Bias Complaints

2:44 AM PST 07/23/2014 by Nick Holdsworth
Map showing site of Malaysia Airlines crash in Ukraine

Ofcom inquiry follows viewer complaints over "slanted coverage" of Malaysian Airlines passenger jet shot down in Ukraine.

The Kremlin's international English language satellite TV news service, RT, is facing investigation by Britain's broadcasting regulator, Ofcom, after allegations of bias in its coverage of the shooting down of the Malaysia Airlines jet over Ukraine last week.

The channel, which is available in the UK on satellite and cable networks and, therefore, subject to British broadcasting rules, could be subjected to an inquiry into alleged slanted reporting of the crash of flight MH17, where all 298 people on board died.

Ofcom's investigation comes just days after Sarah Firth, a British reporter in RT's London bureau resigned after saying the Russian state funded service "distorted" news coverage.

Firth said she has experienced biased coverage throughout her six years at the channel but last week's coverage of the crash had been "the last straw."

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The regulator said RT’s coverage of destruction of the airliner, believed to have been shot down by Moscow-backed pro-Russian rebels, had prompted a wave of complaints from British viewers and it was considering whether to investigate.

“These [complaints] are currently under assessment and a decision whether to investigate will be made in due course,” the regulator said, according to British media reports.

Ofcom has found RT to be in breach of British broadcasting regulations several times in recent years. Last December, RT was censured by Ofcom for a documentary about Syria the regulator judged had given a slanted portrayal of President Assad. Ofcom ruled that RT’s report had “failed to preserve due impartiality." Coverage of Syria by RT in November 2012 was also judged biased.

 

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