Starmer calls for crackdown on RT’s Kremlin ‘propaganda’ amid Ukraine crisis

Ofcom said it will not hesitate to act if broadcasters fail to observe “due impartiality” in their coverage of the crisis.

Sir Keir Starmer in the House of Commons (Jessica Taylor/UK Parliament)
Sir Keir Starmer in the House of Commons (Jessica Taylor/UK Parliament)

Broadcast watchdog Ofcom is facing calls to crackdown on the Kremlin-backed TV station, RT, following the latest Russian escalation in the Ukraine crisis.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer called for action to tackle the “propaganda” put out by the channel, formerly known as Russian Today, describing it as part of Vladimir Putin’s “campaign of misinformation”.

In response, the regulator said that, given the seriousness of events in Ukraine, it was ready to act “as a priority” if concerns were raised about the accuracy or impartiality of any broadcaster.

“All licensees must observe Ofcom’s rules, including due accuracy and due impartiality. If broadcasters break those rules we will not hesitate to step in,” a spokesman said.

Ofcom said it will not hesitate to act if there are concerns about impartiality (Yui Mok/PA)

“Given the seriousness of the Ukraine crisis, we will examine complaints about any broadcaster’s coverage of these events as a priority.”

The warning comes after German regulators earlier this month banned the German-language version of RT there, saying it did not have the required broadcasting licence.

In the Commons, Sir Keir said it was time for wider action against the channel following Russia’s recognition of the breakaway regions of Donetsk and Luhansk.

Always a joy to see Western and particularly British politicians finally drop their hypocritical disguise in favour of open interference in institutions they touted as supposedly totally independent and wholly free from political pressure and interference

Anna Belkina, deputy editor-in-chief, RT

“Putin’s campaign of misinformation should be tackled,” he told MPs. “Russia Today should be prevented from broadcasting its propaganda around the world.”

In response, RT deputy editor-in-chief Anna Belkina said: “Always a joy to see Western and particularly British politicians finally drop their hypocritical disguise in favour of open interference in institutions they touted as supposedly totally independent and wholly free from political pressure and interference.”

In 2019, Ofcom fined RT £200,000 for its failure to observe “due impartiality” in seven news and current affairs programmes, including its coverage of the war in Syria and the Salisbury nerve agent attack.

It said at the time: “Taken together, these breaches represented serious and repeated failures of compliance with our rules. We were particularly concerned by the frequency of RT’s rule-breaking over a relatively short period of time.

“The programmes were mostly in relation to major matters of political controversy and current public policy – namely the UK Government’s response to the events in Salisbury, and the Syrian conflict.”

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Please enter a valid email
Please enter a valid email
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Please enter your first name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
Please enter your last name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
You must be over 18 years old to register
You must be over 18 years old to register
Opt-out-policy
You can opt-out at any time by signing in to your account to manage your preferences. Each email has a link to unsubscribe.

By clicking ‘Create my account’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in