Russia's international propaganda channel RT will not lose its UK broadcasting licence according to information reported by the Telegraph.
Ofcom has been investigating the news channel for continuously casting doubt about the Russian connection in the
attempted murder of ex spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter in Salisbury.
Perhaps it is rather bizarre that a news content censors should be tasked with something that could lead to consequences such as retaliatory action and a further escalation
of an already tense relationship with Russia. Surely when such risks are involved, diplomats and the Foreign Office should be taking the lead.
Perhaps Ofcom were thinking along these lines in taking the decision not to ban the channel. In a legal
document entitled Update on the RT service , Ofcom has now said:
States sometimes commit, or will have committed, acts which are contrary to these values. In our judgment, it would be inappropriate for Ofcom
always to place decisive weight on such matters in determining whether state-funded broadcasters were fit and proper to hold broadcast licences, independently of their broadcasting record.
If we did, many state-funded broadcasters
(mostly those from states which may not share UK values) would be potentially not fit and proper. This would be a poorer outcome for UK audiences in light of our duties on plurality, diversity and freedom of expression.
Ofcom were a
bit more bullish at the start of the investigation saying:
Should the UK investigating authorities determine that there was an unlawful use of force by the Russian State against the UK, we would consider this relevant
to our ongoing duty to be satisfied that RT is fit and proper, the regulator said at the time.
Also it is a little strange to note that the Telegraph's story has not been picked up by other newspapers. The Express initially published
the story but withdrew it a little later.
Update: Tit for tat
24th May 2018. From the FT
Ofcom have jsut announced that that 3 further programmes on the Russian propaganda channel RT will be investigated after
an Ofcom move to continuously monitor the station's output. In response, Russian foreign ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova has informed reporters that relevant Russian structures have begun closely studying the content of the materials of the British
mass media that are represented in the Russian Federation.
Ofcom has today opened seven new investigations into the due impartiality of news and current affairs programmes on the RT news channel.
The investigations (PDF, 240.5 KB) form part of an Ofcom update, published today, into the
licences held by TV Novosti, the company that broadcasts RT.
Until recently, TV Novosti's overall compliance record has not been materially out of line with other broadcasters.
However, since the events in
Salisbury, we have observed a significant increase in the number of programmes on the RT service that warrant investigation as potential breaches of the Ofcom Broadcasting Code.
We will announce the outcome of these investigations
as soon as possible. In relation to our fit and proper duty, we will consider all relevant new evidence, including the outcome of these investigations and the future conduct of the licensee.
Steve Allen presents the early weekday morning breakfast show between 04:00 and 07:00 on the speech based radio station LBC 97.3FM. The format of the programme is based on the
presenter expressing his views on a range of topical issues and encouraging listeners to interact and express their opinions via text message and online.
A listener complained that presenter Steve Allen made discriminatory
comments about the traveller community during this programme.
We noted that during the programme, the presenter, Mr Allen, made reference to a news story in which businesses in the village of Parkend, Gloucestershire, were
instructed by police to close following violent disturbances from a group of visitors to a holiday village. Mr Allen said the following:
“’Brawling travellers shut down a holiday village’. Why do we have to start being
nice to travellers? Every time I read a story in the newspaper its either thieving, robbing or brawling. And this one was terrible, all the businesses had to close and everything else. We had them moving in to a hospital car park a short while ago, it
was all very odd. What is the matter with them? What is the matter with them?”
We considered Rule 2.3:
“In applying generally accepted standards broadcasters must ensure that
material which may cause offence is justified by the context…”.
Ofcom decision: Breach of rule 2.3
Mr Allen was responding to a news story about violent disorder in a Gloucestershire town
which, according to the Licensee, Mr Allen had believed at the time referred to members from the travelling community.As a result, Mr Allen went on to ask rhetorically:
Why do we have to start being nice to travellers?
Every time I read a story in the newspaper its either thieving, robbing or brawling206what is the matter with them? What is the matter with them?
In Ofcom's view, these remarks could be interpreted as offering a
highly pejorative and generalised view about members of the traveller community, a protected racial group under the Equality Act 2010, and as such had the potential to cause offence to listeners. The likely level of offence in this case would have been
increased by Mr Allen's repeated and emphatic use of the rhetorical question what is the matter with them?. In our view, this would have served to reinforce Steve Allen's attribution of a clearly negative stereotype of certain forms of anti-social and
criminal behaviour (i.e. thieving, robbing or brawling) to all members of the travelling community.