Ofcom fines RT £200,000

26 July 2019

Ofcom has today fined the news channel RT £200,000 for serious failures to comply with our broadcasting rules – and required the channel to broadcast a summary of our findings to its viewers.

Ofcom has rules in place requiring broadcast news to be presented with due impartiality.[1]

Our investigation found that RT failed to preserve due impartiality in seven news and current affairs programmes between 17 March and 26 April 2018.[2]

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.

Financial penalty

Following a fair and transparent process, which included receiving written and oral representations from the licensee[3], we have decided to:

  • impose a financial penalty of £200,000[4]; and
  • direct RT to broadcast a summary of Ofcom’s findings, in a form and on dates to be determined by Ofcom.

We consider this sanction to be appropriate and proportionate. It takes into account the additional steps that RT has taken to ensure its compliance since we launched our investigations; and that we have not recorded any further breaches of our due impartiality rules against RT to date.

Ofcom will await the conclusion of RT’s application for judicial review of our breach decisions before enforcing the sanction.[5]

NOTES TO EDITORS

1. What is due impartiality?

Due’ means adequate or appropriate to the subject and nature of the programme. So ‘due impartiality’ does not mean an equal division of time has to be given to every view, or that every argument and every facet of every argument has to be represented.

The approach to due impartiality may vary according to the nature of the subject, the type of programme and channel, the likely expectation of the audience as to content, and the extent to which the content and approach is signalled to the audience. Context is important.

2. Our full decisions relating to these seven breaches are set out in Broadcast Bulletin 369 (PDF, 2.2 MB), published on 20 December 2018. The programmes concerned were:

  • Sputnik, RT, 17 March 2018, 19:30;
  • News, RT, 18 March 2018, 08:00;
  • Sputnik, RT, 7 April 2018, 19:30;
  • Crosstalk, RT, 13 April 2018, 20:30;
  • Crosstalk, RT, 16 April 2018, 20:30;
  • Crosstalk, RT, 20 April 2018, 08:30; and
  • News, RT, 26 April 2018, 08:00.

3. The licence holder for the RT news channel is Autonomous Non-Profit Organisation TV Novosti (ANO TV Novosti).

4. The financial penalty will be payable to HM Paymaster General.

5. RT has issued an application for judicial review of Ofcom’s seven breach decisions. Permission was granted in June 2019 and we expect a full hearing towards the end of the year. Ofcom is defending the judicial review.