Russia Today has had its licence to broadcast in the UK revoked with immediate effect after watchdog Ofcom said it did not consider the channel “fit and proper” or a “responsible broadcaster”.
The media regulator said that it had taken into account “a number of factors” including the fact that the news channel was funded by the Russian state “which has recently invaded a neigbouring sovereign country”.
Ofcom also cited new laws in Russia “which effectively criminalise any independent journalism that departs from the Russian state’s own news narrative, in particular in relation to the invasion of Ukraine”.
“We consider that given these constraints it appears impossible for RT to comply with the due impartiality rules of our Broadcasting Code in the circumstances,” the regulator added.
RT is already off air in the UK due to EU sanctions which have affected the Europe-based satellite operator that distributes the channel across the continent.
Ofcom has come under increasing political pressure to look at revoking RT’s licence.
The Prime Minister has said that if he had the power to ban the channel he would as it is “doing a lot of damage to the truth”.
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has labelled it Russian President Vladimir Putin’s “personal propaganda tool”, saying it spreads “lies and disinformation”.
Ofcom chief executive Dame Melanie Dawes said: “Freedom of expression is something we guard fiercely in this country, and the bar for action on broadcasters is rightly set very high.
“Following an independent regulatory process, we have today found that RT is not fit and proper to hold a licence in the UK.
“As a result we have revoked RT’s UK broadcasting licence.”
The decision comes amid 29 ongoing investigations by Ofcom into the impartiality of RT’s coverage of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Ofcom said: “We consider the volume and potentially serious nature of the issues raised within such a short period to be of great concern – especially given RT’s compliance history.”
RT was fined £200,000 by Ofcom for breaching impartiality rules after it broke the British broadcasting code on seven occasions over the Salisbury Novichok poisoning.
While there have been growing calls to suspend RT’s licence, concerns have been raised that such action could result in a tit-for-tat media expulsion in Russia.