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Ukraine latest: Ofcom revokes RT licence, more firms suspend Russian business

UK media regulator Ofcom has revoked Russian state broadcaster RT’s licence to broadcast in the country, while Mip Markets, Cineflix Rights and Walter Presents have all clarified their positions on doing business with Russia, as the war in Ukraine enters a fourth week.

Volodymyr Zelensky

The European Commission had already moved to ban RT (formerly Russia Today), Sputnik and other Russian news channels in February, which had seen it drop off air in the UK in any case.

However, Ofcom today concluded that the channel’s licensee, ANO TV Novosti, was no longer fit and proper to hold a UK broadcast licence. The regulator said there were currently 29 separate investigations into the due impartiality of its news and current affairs coverage of the Ukraine invasion.

An Ofcom spokesperson 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, which has seen the channel fined £200,000 for previous due impartiality breaches. In this context, we launched a separate investigation to determine whether ANO TV Novosti is fit and proper to retain its licence to broadcast.

“This investigation has taken account of a number of factors, including RT’s relationship with the Russian Federation. It has recognised that RT is funded by the Russian state, which has recently invaded a neighbouring sovereign country. We also note 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.”

Ofcom CEO Dame Melanie Dawes added: “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.”

RT, rather ironically, responded by branding Ofcom “a tool of the government.”

The international television industry has continued to turn its back on Russia, withdrawing programmes and services and banning its channels from airing, since the invasion began.

A host of big industry names including Netflix, BBC Studios and YouTube; Banijay; and WarnerMedia, Discovery and Amazon have all shunned the rogue nation, while the business’s conference circuit has banned Russian companies and delegates from attending events run by C21Media, Brunico, Natpe and others.

While MipTV and Mipcom owner RX (formerly Reed Midem) has yet to make an official statement cancelling business with Russia, a Mip Markets spokesperson told C21 today: “Mipcom and MipTV have suspended trading with exhibitors and visitors from Russia.”

Meanwhile, UK-based distributor Cineflix Rights said it was removing Russian series from its catalogue, adding: “Like other media groups, Cineflix Rights sympathises with Russian creatives who are caught in a very difficult situation. However, in light of current circumstances, we have decided to put a pause on distributing Russian content.”

Non-English-language streamer Walter Presents has made a similar move. Jason Thorp, CEO and co-founder of the Global Series Network, which runs the service, said: “In light of the situation in Ukraine, we have decided to suspend any new business with Russia at this time. This means we will not be acquiring any new Russian shows nor will we release Russian shows on the Walter Presents platform until further notice.”

In related news, US-based distributor PBS International has added two one-off programmes relating to the unfolding crisis in Ukraine to its catalogue.

Zelensky: The Man Who Took On Putin is a 30-minute profile on Ukraine president Volodymyr Zelensky. Produced by the UK’s ITN Productions, it looks at his youth, his life before his presidency and now his position as the leader of Ukraine under siege.

The other film is Frontline’s Putin’s Road to War (1×60′), which follows the inside story of what led to Vladimir Putin’s war on Ukraine.

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