Labour asks Ofcom to “urgently review” Russia Today license

Elliot Chappell
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Labour has asked the communications regulator Ofcom to “urgently review” the license of Russia Today in light of the “damning revelations” in the long-awaited report published by the intelligence and security committee.

In a letter to chief executive Melanie Dawes, the party wrote that the report published on Tuesday had exposed the role that the broadcaster plays in the “much wider issue of Russian influence”.

Labour said the findings of the committee had reinforced a judgement against Russia Today in a court case in 2018, which had found that its reporting of the Salisbury incident had caused “actual and potential harm”.

Jo Stevens said: “The long-awaited Russia report sets out in black and white issues that Ofcom already identified when it fined £200,000 for its biased reporting of the novichok attack in Salisbury at the hands of the Russian state.

“This worrying report spells out the role that Russia Today plays in the spread of disinformation and attempts at broader political influence overseas, by Russia.”

The Shadow Culture Secretary added: “I am writing to request that Ofcom urgently reviews RT’s licence to broadcast within the UK in the light of this report.”

The report from the committee stated that “open source studies have shown serious distortions in the coverage provided by Russian state-owned international broadcasters such as Russia Today and Sputnik”.

Labour leader Keir Starmer called on Boris Johnson to “stop the spread of Kremlin-backed disinformation” during Wednesday’s Prime Minister’s Questions session, referring to Russia Today and the 2018 judgement.

Below is the full text of the letter sent to Ofcom.

Dear Dame Melanie Dawes,

I am writing to you in light of the troubling revelations in the Russia report about the role of RT and Sputnik in spreading Kremlin-backed disinformation in the UK.

The report from the Intelligence and Security Committee sets out in black and white issues that Ofcom has already identified through the £200,000 fine administered in 2018. This was in response to the broadcaster’s failure to preserve due impartiality in seven news and current affairs programmes between 17 March and 26 April 2018 covering the Novichok attack in Salisbury at the hands of the Russian state in 2018.

When RT lost its High Court challenge to Ofcom’s fine, Lord Justice Dingemans said in his ruling that biased reporting of the Novichok attack in Salisbury at the hands of the Russian state caused “actual and potential harm”.

That damning judgment has now been reinforced by the long-delayed ISC report that exposes the role RT plays in the much wider issue with of Russian influence.

I am writing to request that Ofcom urgently reviews RT’s licence in light of this report and to request a meeting with you as soon as possible to discuss my concerns about the broadcaster.

Yours sincerely,

Jo Stevens

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