The UK’s media regulator Ofcom has said it is stepping up its oversight of coverage of events in Ukraine.
It follows a number of government ministers calling on Ofcom to look at broadcaster RT’s content over the Russian invasion of Ukraine, an issue the watchdog views as a “priority”.
This morning foreign secretary Liz Truss told Sky News: “I think it’s certainly true that it is spouting propaganda on behalf of the Kremlin. One of the things the Kremlin does is use disinformation to try and sow discord in the West – and RT is clearly part of that.”
She added on Times Radio: “I’m of the view RT broadcasts propaganda and fake news on a regular basis, and is effectively an arm of the Russian state, and I’m sure Ofcom is looking at that.”
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has also called on the government to crack down on the Russian-controlled network’s “propaganda”.
During Prime Minister’s Questions, Boris Johnson announced culture secretary Nadine Dorries has written to Ofcom to review the matter.
Ofcom’s chief executive Melanie Dawes has now written to Dorries stating: “We have been keeping the situation under close review and have already stepped up our oversight of coverage of these events by broadcasters in the UK. We are expediting complaints in this area as a matter of urgency and we will not hesitate to take swift action where necessary.
“I am confident that we have the full range of enforcement tools at our disposal and our track record shows that when we find a breach of our rules, we can and do take action. As always we will be fully transparent about any investigations we open, and the outcomes of those.”
Dawes added: “Ofcom’s Broadcasting Code, which reflects the rules established by parliament in the Communications Act, requires all licensees to ensure that news – in whatever form – is reported with due accuracy and presented with due impartiality. It is acceptable for broadcasters to present issues from a particular perspective provided that alternative views and opinions are also represented. It would not be acceptable for any of our licensees to broadcast one-sided propaganda.”
It’s not the first time the channel has come under scrutiny from Ofcom. In 2019 it was fined £200,000 after the regulator found that RT failed to preserve due impartiality in seven news and current affairs programmes between 17 March and 26 April 2018.
Meanwhile, earlier this month German authorities banned the German-language version of RT, saying its Serbian licence was invalid in Germany.