German authorities have banned the broadcasting of Russia Today’s German-language TV programme on Wednesday (2 February) because it lacked the necessary media licence. EURACTIV Germany reports.
Russia Today (RT) must immediately stop broadcasting and disseminating the TV programme, ZAK, Germany’s commission on licensing and supervision of media institutions has said.
The media financed by the Russian state has not been granted a licence, nor had it applied for one, ZAK said in a statement.
RT Deutschland only started operating its television programme on 16 December. Already the next day, the competent media authority in Berlin-Brandenburg initiated proceedings against the TV station, as RT did not have a German broadcasting licence.
RT has been criticised for years for spreading fake news through its media channels.
The media is financed by the Russian state to the tune of around €32 million, according to RT deputy editor-in-chief Anna Belinka, and is thus often referred to as the Kremlin’s mouthpiece in Germany.
The decision was not based on the orientation of RT’s content, however.
Instead, it was a matter of “the upstream question of who is the broadcaster of the programme and whether they have a licence”, Wolfgang Kreißig, chairman of the supervisory authority and the directors’ conference of the state media authorities, also known as DLM, told newspaper FAZ.
RT is trying to turn this into a political issue. The ban was based exclusively on “political reasons” that had come about by “invoking a false version of reality”, according to a statement from the broadcaster.
RT has long been the focus of attention of German authorities.
In its 2020 annual report, the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution warned that Russia was trying to “steer public opinion in Germany in its favour through the dissemination of propaganda, disinformation and other attempts to exert influence” via state media.
Concern was also expressed at government level.
RT is one of the “key players in a complex network that spreads narratives on behalf of Russian state agencies” to influence the “political will process in Germany”, said the previous government in 2020 in response to a question from the liberal FDP party.
The spread of misinformation via RT already got the Russian media company into trouble in September. At the time, RT’s YouTube channel was permanently suspended for spreading COVID-19-related misinformation.
In response to the termination of the YouTube channel, RT’s editor-in-chief Margarita Simonyan called the action a “media war.”
Russia’s own foreign ministry also stepped in, with its spokesperson calling the account shutdown an “unprecedented information aggression” against Russia.
At the time, Russia also announced countermeasures against German media houses and YouTube. These were “absolutely necessary”, as the Russian foreign ministry emphasised in a statement.
Whether Russia will also make a statement this time and take countermeasures against German media is currently unclear.
[Edited by Luca Bertuzzi and Nathalie Weatherald]