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U.K. media regulator Ofcom has announced that is has opened 15 investigations into breaches of impartiality on RT, the Russian state-backed news channel.
“We have observed a significant increase in the number of programs on the RT service that warrant investigation under our Broadcasting Code,” it said in a statement on Monday.
“When dealing with major matters such as the crisis in the Ukraine, all Ofcom licensees must comply with the special impartiality requirements in our code. These rules require broadcasters to take additional steps to preserve due impartiality – namely by including and giving due weight to a wide range of significant views.”
Ofcom said that the investigations relate to the 15 editions of the hourly News program broadcast on RT on Feb. 27 alone, adding that given the “severity and urgency” of the current crisis it would expedite the process and expected full cooperation from RT.
“Given the scale and gravity of the crisis in Ukraine, audiences expect to be able to trust and rely on duly impartial broadcast news,” said Ofcom chief executive Melanie Dawes.
Dawes added, “When reporting on an armed conflict, we recognize it can be difficult for broadcasters to verify information and events, but it is imperative that they make every effort to do so. They must also explain clearly to audiences where there is uncertainty or where events are disputed.”
RT, the licenses for which are held by ANO TV Novosti, has come under increased fire from across Europe since Russia began its invasion of Ukraine. Over the weekend, the European Union announced that it was banning both RT and fellow Russia-backed channel Sputnik as part of increased sanctions against Vladimir Putin’s government.
“Russia Today and Sputnik, as well as their subsidiaries, will no longer be able to spread their lies to justify Putin’s war and to sow division in our union,” said European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen. “So we are developing tools to ban their toxic and harmful disinformation in Europe.”
In the U.K. when asked whether RT should be banned, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the matter should be decided by Ofcom.
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