Ukraine crisis: Could Russia Today turn you into a Putin propagandist?

The network’s coverage is so biased that its presenters are walking out. Archie Bland tunes in to the other side

On Monday, Russia Today presenter Abby Martin made use of her editorial independence to make a fervent speech about her opposition to the Moscow government’s intervention in Ukraine. On Wednesday, another host, Liz Wahl, resigned on air, explaining that she could not be part of a network “which whitewashes the actions of Putin”.

I watched, then, with beady eyes for any sign of wavering loyalty to the RT message. I saw none. (That may have partly been because Abby Martin had skipped her show to be interviewed by Piers Morgan instead.)

The reality was somewhat unexpected: unremitting boredom. Watching more than half an hour of rolling news is never good for you; the breathless tone and churning speculation conjure a sharp sense of killing time in a Sheraton hotel room before a business meeting. RT, though – to use its proper title – does something else again. RT does endless, grinding repetition. It’s like Fox News if Fox News didn’t care about selling ads.

An hour on RT is split into 30 minutes for news and 30 minutes for a presenter-driven strand of the sort that Mr Morgan has just lost. Here is how a typical hour went today, with only slight variation for presenter or pundit.

First up, it goes without saying, is Ukraine. We begin with the Crimean parliament’s vote to join Russia, a momentous development that warranted top billing but not much in the way of reporting. More substantially dealt with is a suggestion, repeated over the phone by an Estonian minister to EU foreign affairs chief Cathy Ashton, that the snipers who killed so many protesters in Kiev were cynical opposition plants.

Presenter Marina Dzhashi walks us through some sketchy back-of-an-envelope ballistic reconstructions that purport to show that all the sniper fire came from opposition areas. I stare at her hard, wondering if there will be any hints of a looming defection to liven things up a bit, but Dzhashi stays resolutely on message.

Then it’s on to a segment called Propaganda Watch, which is exactly as dreary as it sounds. Presenter Gayane Chichakyan is so tired of the lies that the MSM is feeding the sheeple. She, too, is excited about the sniper story, and uses her anti-propaganda slot to inflate the Estonian minister’s words from rumour to “evidence”. Why is it not being better covered elsewhere? Well, she says darkly, “it doesn’t fit into the narrative, does it?”

In a way, the Ukrainian stuff is the least of it. It is, after all, a massive story. The second half of the news is far stranger, cherry-picking a couple of yarns that are almost random except that they paint an ugly picture of the West – the arrest of David Cameron’s aide Patrick Rock over child porn allegations being one, an obscure tale of a deadly New Jersey gas explosion being the other. Again, they are repeated ad infinitum, such that the news seems to roll less than it does to plod.

The break is stuffed with trailers for presenters who, we keep being told, question everything and are afraid of nothing, with the possible exception of the consequences of insulting Vladimir Putin. This set of wannabe Bill O’Reillys, whose shows fill the second half hour, are fatally stymied by a lack of resources: instead of the kinetic impatience that we’re used to, everything gets done to death. Business presenter Erin Ade, the poor thing, has to spend 20 minutes interrogating a bloke who thinks we’ll soon be paying our bills with gold ingots.

Neatly emblematic of it all is Worlds Apart, a show which promises fearless debate but instead features a pro-Kremlin presenter haranguing an academic. The Ukrainian government wasn’t elected, the host says. Of course it wasn’t, the academic, Dr Angela Stent, replies – it’s an interim body, set up in a huge hurry. And the summarising caption appears below: Stent: US now supporting interim government which wasn’t elected democratically.

Thank goodness someone is here to keep the narrative from going off the rails.

News
The slice of Prince Charles and Princess Diana's wedding cake and the original box from 29 July 1981
newsPiece of Charles and Diana's wedding cake sold at auction in US
Arts and Entertainment
Gregg Wallace in Summer's Supermarket Secrets
tv All of this year's 15 contestants have now been named
Arts and Entertainment
Inside the gallery at Frederick Bremer School in Walthamstow
tvSimon Usborne goes behind the scenes to watch the latest series
Life and Style
A picture taken on January 12, 2011 shows sex shops at the Paris district of Pigalle.
newsThe industry's trade body issued the moratorium on Friday
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
News
Winchester College Football (universally known as Winkies) is designed to make athletic skill all but irrelevant
Life...arcane public school games explained
Arts and Entertainment
Could we see Iain back in the Bake Off tent next week?
tv Contestant teased Newsnight viewers on potential reappearance
Life and Style
Silvia says of her famous creation: 'I never stopped wearing it. Because I like to wear things when they are off the radar'
fashionThe fashion house celebrated fifteen years of the punchy pouch with a weighty tome
News
i100(and it's got nothing to do with the Great British Bake Off)
News
Angelina Jolie with her father Jon Voight
peopleAsked whether he was upset not to be invited, he responded by saying he was busy with the Emmy Awards
News
Bill Kerr has died aged 92
peopleBill Kerr appeared in Hancock’s Half Hour and later worked alongside Spike Milligan and Peter Sellers
News
news It's not just the world that's a mess at the moment...
Sport
footballPremiership preview: All the talking points ahead of this weekend's matches
News
Keira Knightley poses topless for a special September The Photographer's issue of Interview Magazine, out now
people
Voices
The Ukip leader has consistently refused to be drawn on where he would mount an attempt to secure a parliamentary seat
voicesNigel Farage: Those who predicted we would lose momentum heading into the 2015 election are going to have to think again
Arts and Entertainment
Cara Delevingne made her acting debut in Anna Karenina in 2012
film Cara Delevingne 'in talks' to star in Zoolander sequel
News
i100
Sport
Mario Balotelli pictured in his Liverpool shirt for the first time
football
Life and Style
tech
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £45000 per annum + uncapped: SThree: Key featuresA highly motivated ...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £30000 per annum + uncapped: SThree: Do you feel you sales role is li...

Head of Marketing (Online & Offline, Media, Digital, Strategy)

£85000 - £100000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Head of Marketing - Slough, Berkshi...

Administration Assistant / Office Assistant

£18 - 20k + Bonus: Guru Careers: An Administration Assistant / Office Assistan...

Day In a Page

Ukraine crisis: The phoney war is over as Russian troops and armour pour across the border

The phoney war is over

Russian troops and armour pour into Ukraine
Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

The world’s entire food system is under attack - and Britain is most at risk, according to a new study
Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Seoul's plastic surgery industry is booming thanks to the popularity of the K-Pop look
From Mozart to Orson Welles: Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

After the death of Sandy Wilson, 90, who wrote his only hit musical in his twenties, John Walsh wonders what it's like to peak too soon and go on to live a life more ordinary
Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Fears are mounting that Vladimir Putin has instructed hackers to target banks like JP Morgan
Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years

Salomé: A head for seduction

Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years. Now audiences can meet the Biblical femme fatale in two new stage and screen projects
From Bram Stoker to Stanley Kubrick, the British Library's latest exhibition celebrates all things Gothic

British Library celebrates all things Gothic

Forthcoming exhibition Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination will be the UK's largest ever celebration of Gothic literature
The Hard Rock Café's owners are embroiled in a bitter legal dispute - but is the restaurant chain worth fighting for?

Is the Hard Rock Café worth fighting for?

The restaurant chain's owners are currently embroiled in a bitter legal dispute
Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival

In search of Caribbean soul food

Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival
11 best face powders

11 best face powders

Sweep away shiny skin with our pick of the best pressed and loose powder bases
England vs Norway: Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Lack of Englishmen at leading Premier League clubs leaves manager hamstrung
Angel Di Maria and Cristiano Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

Di Maria and Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

They both inherited the iconic shirt at Old Trafford, but the £59.7m new boy is joining a club in a very different state
Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

America’s new apartheid

Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone