UK regulator investigates Russian channel RT over Ukraine coverage

RT News (Russia Today) app is seen on a smartphone in this illustration taken February 27, 2022. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration

LONDON, Feb 28 (Reuters) - Britain's media regulator on Monday launched 15 investigations into the output of Russian-backed television channel RT over the impartiality of its coverage of the invasion of Ukraine.

Ofcom expects any media organisation with a licence to broadcast in Britain to provide a significant range of voices to maintain impartiality.

The European Union on Sunday proposed banning RT and news agency Sputnik to prevent what it said was Russian propaganda. But Britain has warned that that approach could lead to a reciprocal ban by Moscow against the BBC and others.

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"Given the serious on-going situation in Ukraine, we will be concluding our investigations into RT as a matter of urgency," said Melanie Dawes, Ofcom's Chief Executive.

Ofcom said the investigations relate to 15 editions of the hourly News programme broadcast on RT on 27 February 2022 between 05:00 and 19:00 inclusive.

Anna Belkina, RT's deputy editor in chief, told Reuters the investigation was unsurprising because of the "immense political pressure" being placed on what she called a supposedly independent media regulator.

The "Western establishment seems to be terrified ... of any outside voice for the fear of losing their historically captive audience, if that audience encounters a different perspective," Belkina said.

Britain last week accused RT of being a tool of a Kremlin disinformation campaign and asked the UK media regulator to take action if needed.

Russian officials say RT is a way for Moscow to compete with the dominance of Western global media companies that Moscow says offer a partial view of the world. Moscow describes Russia's actions in Ukraine as a "special operation".

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Reporting by William James and Kate Holton; Editing by Andrew MacAskill, Bernard Orr

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