RT (TV network)

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RT
Russia-today-logo.svg
Launched 10 December 2005
Owned by (ANO) TV-Novosti
Picture format 576i 16:9 (SDTV)
1080i (HDTV)
Slogan Question More
Country Russia
Language Arabic, English, Russian, Spanish
Broadcast area Worldwide, via Cable, Satellite, Digital Terrestrial Television, and Internet
Headquarters Moscow, Russia
Formerly called Russia Today
Sister channel(s) Rusiya Al-Yaum, RT Actualidad, RT America, RT Documentary
Website RT.com "Where to watch RT" map
Availability
Terrestrial
Freeview (UK) Channel 85
MHz Networks (US) Channel 30.4 WNVC Fairfax, Virginia
Channel 35.4 WYBE Philadelphia, Pennsylvania[1]
Channel 30.8 WNVT Goldvein, Virginia
Channel 31.5 W31CT Cortez, Colorado
Satellite
Bell TV (Canada) Channel 724
Airtel digital tv (India) Channel 311
Indovision (Indonesia) Channel 355
SKY Italia (Italy) Channel 531
GlobeCast World TV (North America) FTA Channel 462
Cyfra+ (Poland) Channel 146
Freesat (UK) Channel 206 (SD/HD)
Sky (UK) Channel 512 (SD/HD)
Channel 518 (SD)
Sky (New Zealand) Channel 096
Dish Network (US) Channel 280
Reliance Digital TV (India) Channel 461
CanalDigitaal (Netherlands) Channel 90
Dish TV (India) Channel 738
Cable
Rogers Cable (Canada) Channel 177
Shaw Exo TV (Canada) Channel 505
Destiny Cable (Philippines) Channel 86
StarHub TV (Singapore) Channel 151
SkyCable Platinum (Philippines) Channel 156 (Digital Platform)
Cablelink (Philippines) Channel TBA
Comcast (USA) Check for local listings
Time Warner Cable (USA) Check for local listings
Buckeye Cable System (USA) Channel 266
UPC Netherlands (Netherlands) Channel 411
IPTV
Bell Fibe TV (Canada) Channel 517
Optik TV (Canada) Channel 573
Hypp.TV (Malaysia) Channel 2008
Mio TV (Singapore) Channel 163
TPG Telecom (Australia) Channel unallocated
PTCL Smart TV (Pakistan) Channel 99
Open IPTV (Serbia) Channel 547
Streaming media
Live stream Watch (Free, available in English)

RT, previously known as Russia Today, is an international multilingual Russian-based television network created in 2005.

RT presents round-the-clock news bulletins, documentaries, talk shows, and debates, as well as sports news and cultural programs on Russia aimed at the overseas news market.[2] The network's signal is carried by 22 satellites and over 230 operators, which allows some 644 million people to watch the channel in more than 100 countries.[3] RT America is available to 85 million people in the United States.[4] In 2011 it was the second most-watched foreign news channel in the U.S. after BBC World News,[5] and the number one foreign station in five major U.S. urban areas in 2012.[6] It is also very popular among younger American people, U.S. college students, and in U.S. inner city neighborhoods.[6] In 2013 RT has become the first TV news channel in history to reach 1 billion views on YouTube. According to the Broadcasters' Audience Research Board between 2.2–2.3 million Britons tuned their televisions to RT during the second half of 2012, making it the fourth-most watched rolling news channel in Britain, behind BBC News, Sky News and Al Jazeera English.[7][8][9][10]

According to RT's mission statement "RT provides an alternative perspective on major global events, and acquaints international audience with the Russian viewpoint".[2] Western media perception of the network ranges from having a clear pro-Russian perspective, to having a strong pro-Russian bias, to being a propaganda outlet for the Russian government.

History

Foundation

The creation of Russia Today was a part of a larger PR effort by the Russian government intended to improve the image of Russia abroad.[11] RT was conceived by former media minister Mikhail Lesin,[12] and Vladimir Putin's press spokesperson Aleksei Gromov.[13] At the time of RT's founding, RIA Novosti director Svetlana Mironyuk stated: "Unfortunately, at the level of mass consciousness in the West, Russia is associated with three words: communism, snow and poverty," and added "We would like to present a more complete picture of life in our country."[12] It is registered as an autonomous nonprofit organization[14][15] funded by the federal budget of Russia through the Federal Agency on Press and Mass Communications of the Russian Federation.[16][17]

In 2005, RIA Novosti helped establish "ANO TV-Novosti", (Autonomous Non-profit Organization TV-News) - The parent organization of RT TV. ANO TV-Novosti General director (CEO) position was filled by Mr. Sergey Frolov[18] Frolov described: "A main problem in the beginning was that in our country we've never broadcast English-language television. When it began Russia Today had a certain lack of personnel: it seems hard to find qualified journalists, political scientists, economists, analysts, with good English skills in Moscow."[19]

Former President of Russia Dmitry Medvedev visits RT offices with Editor-in-Chief Margarita Simonyan.

RT started broadcasting as "Russia Today" on 10 December 2005, beginning with 300 journalists, including approximately 70 from outside Russia.[11] Russia Today's editor-in-chief position was filled by Margarita Simonyan who recruited foreign journalists as presenters and consultants.[12] She said the channel's intent was to have a "professional format" like the BBC, CNN and Euronews that would "reflect Russia's opinion of the world" and present a "more balanced picture" of Russia.[20]

Simonyan was a reportedly well-connected former Kremlin pool reporter, only 25 years of age at the time, working in journalism since she was 18. She told the New York Times that after the fall of the Soviet Union, many new young journalists were hired, thus the youth of most of the staffers.[21] Journalist Danny Schechter, who has been a guest on RT,[22] has stated that having been part of the start-up team for CNN, he saw RT as another "channel of young people who are inexperienced, but very enthusiastic about what they are doing."[23] Shortly after the channel was launched, James Painter wrote that Russia Today and similar stations like France 24 and TeleSUR saw themselves as "counter-hegemonic", offering a differing vision and news content from that of Western media like CNN and the BBC.[24]

Development and expansion

RT launched several new channels in ensuing years: the Arabic language channel Rusiya Al-Yaum in 2007, the Spanish language channel RT Actualidad in 2009, RT America which focuses on the United States in 2010, and the RT Documentary channel in 2011.[25]

In August 2007, RT was the first television channel ever to report live from the North Pole, with the report lasting 5 minutes, 41 seconds. An RT crew participated in the Arktika 2007 Russian polar expedition, led by Artur Chilingarov on the Akademik Fyodorov icebreaker.[26][27] In December 2007 the Times Square New Year's Eve celebration broadcast RT's televised Moscow and Saint Petersburg celebrations.[27]

RT drew particular world attention for its coverage of the 2008 South Ossetia war.[27][28][29] RT named Georgia as the aggressor[29] against the separatist governments of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, which were protected by Russian troops.[30] RT saw this as the incident which showcased its news abilities to the world.[31] Margarita Simonyan stated, "we were the only ones among the English-language media who were giving the other side of the story - the South Ossetian side of the story."[28]

In 2009, Russia Today rebranded itself to the more neutral "RT".[32] Margarita Simonyan denied it was an attempt to hide its Russian origins, saying the corporate logo was changed to attract more viewers and commenting, "Who is interested in watching news from Russia all day long?"[25]

The early 2010 "Question More" advertising campaign created for RT in Britain by McCann Erickson was highly controversial.[33] One advertisement showed American President Barack Obama "morphing" into Iranian leader Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and asked: "Who poses the greatest nuclear threat?" The ad was banned in American airports. Another shows a Western soldier "merging" into a Taliban fighter and asks: "Is terror only inflicted by terrorists?"[34] One of RT's 2010 billboard advertisements won the British Awards for National Newspaper Advertising "Ad of the Month".[35]

Russia Today is one of several international channels which have challenged the United States media which previously dominated global news coverage.[36] In 2010 Walter Isaacson, Chairman of the U.S. Government's Broadcasting Board of Governors (which runs Voice of America, Radio Free Europe, and Radio Free Asia), called for more money for the programs because, "We can't allow ourselves to be out-communicated by our enemies," mentioning specifically Russia Today, Iran's Press TV and China's China Central Television ("CCTV") in the next sentence. He later explained he actually was referring to "enemies" in Afghanistan, not the nations he mentioned.[37] In 2011, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton stated that the United States was "losing the information war" abroad to foreign channels like Russia Today, Al Jazeera, and China Central Television[38] and that they are supplanting the Voice of America.[39][40]

Recent

In early 2012, shortly after his appointment as the United States Ambassador to Russia, Michael McFaul challenged Margarita Simonyan[41] over Twitter in regards to allegations from RT[42] that he sent Alexei Navalny to study at Yale.[41][42] RT discovered McFaul was referring to a comment in an article by political scientist Igor Panarin which RT had specified were the views of the author.[43][44] Ambassador McFaul then accepted an interview by Sophie Shevardnadze on RT on this and other issues and reasserted that the Obama administration wanted a "reset" in relations with Russia.[45]

In 2012, Pew Research found RT to be the most popular news channel on YouTube, with Fox News coming in second.[46]

"World Tomorrow" title card

On April 17, 2012, RT began to broadcast the World Tomorrow, a news interview program hosted by Julian Assange. The first guest was Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah.[47] The interview made global headlines because Nasrallah rarely gives interviews to western media.[48] Commentators described this as a "coup"[49][50] or a "scoop".[51][52] WikiLeaks described the show as "a series of in-depth conversations with key political players, thinkers and revolutionaries from around the world."[53] It says that the show is "independently produced and Assange has control"; WikiLeaks offers a "Broadcasters license, only".[32] Anticipating criticism such as "There's Julian Assange, enemy combatant, traitor, getting into bed with the Kremlin and interviewing terrible radicals from around the world.", Assange said that RT would allow his guests to say things they "could not say on a mainstream TV network."[54] Assange admitted that if Wikileaks had published Russian data, his relationship with RT might not have been so comfortable.[48]

In August 2012, RT suffered a denial of service attack for several days by a group calling itself "Antileaks". It was speculated that the group was protesting Julian Assange and/or Russia's jailing of members of the Pussy Riot group.[55]

On October 23, 2012, RT, along with Al-Jazeera and C-SPAN, broadcast the Free and Equal Elections Foundation third-party debate among four third-party candidates for United States President.[56][57] On November 5, RT broadcast the two candidates voted winners of that debate, Libertarian Party candidate Governor Gary Johnson and the Green Party of the United States candidate Jill Stein from RT's Washington, DC studio.[58]

In November 2012, Israeli Defense Force bombs severely damaged the RT office in Gaza City, wounding four journalists, during Operation Pillar of Defense. The office was right next to that of the Israeli target, Al-Aqsa TV, a Hamas-affiliated television station.[59]

In May 2013, RT announced that former CNN talk show host Larry King would be anchoring a new talk show on RT. King said in an advertisement on RT: "I would rather ask questions to people in positions of power, instead of speaking on their behalf."[60][61] He also is bringing his Hulu show "Larry King Now" to RT. Margarita Simonyan said in a statement, "Whether a president or an activist or a rock star was sitting across from him, Larry King never shied away from asking the tough questions, which makes him a terrific fit for our network".[62] On June 13, 2013 RT previewed Larry King's new Thursday evening show "Politicking" with discussion of Edward Snowden's leaking of the PRISM surveillance program.[63]

President of Russia Vladimir Putin 2013 visit to RT new broadcasting centre and interview with RT correspondents

Vladimir Putin visited the new Russia Today broadcasting centre in June 2013 and stated "When we designed this project back in 2005 we intended introducing another strong player on the international scene, a player that wouldn’t just provide an unbiased coverage of the events in Russia but also try, let me stress, I mean – try to break the Anglo-Saxon monopoly on the global information streams.... We wanted to bring an absolutely independent news channel to the news arena. Certainly the channel is funded by the government, so it cannot help but reflect the Russian government’s official position on the events in our country and in the rest of the world one way or another. But I’d like to underline again that we never intended this channel, RT, as any kind of apologetics for the Russian political line, whether domestic or foreign."[64]

In August 2013, RT reached over one million likes on their Facebook page.[citation needed]

Organization

State-owned RIA Novosti news agency, which founded RT in 2005, is one of the largest in Russia. Its Chair is Svetlana Mironyuk who has modernised the agency since her appointment in 2003.[65] RIA Novosti has stated it helped establish RT but is "neither a sponsor nor a backer of Russia Today."[25] Mikhail Seslavinsky, in charge of the Federal Agency on Press and Mass Communications of the Russian Federation asserted in 2005 that "Russia Today will come as an independent company".[66]

In 2007, RT offices were established in the same building as RIA Novosti after the Russian Union of Journalists was forced to vacate them.[67] In 2012 Anna Kachkayeva, Dean of Media Communications at Moscow's Higher School of Economics, stated that they "share the same roof" because they are located in the same building, but regarding "funding, editorial policy, management and staff, they are two independent organisations whose daily operations are not interconnected in any way."[15]

In 2008, Simonyan noted that more than 50 young RT journalists had gone on to take positions in large Western media outlets.[27] By 2010 RT had grown to a staff of 2000.[25]

In June 2011, RT responded to the criticisms it is "state-run" by noting the official mission statements and funding of other well-known "state-run" television networks like the British Broadcasting Corporation ("BBC"), France 24, Germany's Deutsche Welle and the United States's Corporation for Public Broadcasting (which contains PBS and NPR).[68] Margarita Simonyan told a reporter that the Kremlin would not dictate content and "Censorship by government in this country is prohibited by the constitution." She explained her job was "to bring the western image of Russia closer to what Russia really is."[69]

In 2012, when foreign media were commenting on RT sponsoring the Julian Assange programme, RIA Novosti asserted that "It is the co-founder of the Autonomous Non-Profit Organisation (ANO) TV Novosti, launched in December 2005 as Russia Today (RT). Under Russian law, as an autonomous non-profit organisation, RT is fully independent of its founders. Its top management body is the Supervisory Council (Board of Directors). RIA Novosti does not have any representatives on the RT Supervisory Council or any other RT management bodies, and hence does not influence the network's editorial policy, or its financial and economic operation, directly or indirectly".[15]

In December 2012 on the eve of RT's seven-year anniversary, RT moved its studios and headquarters offices to a brand new complex in Moscow, a state-of-the-art, eight-storey-high facility encompassing over 28,000 square meters, that houses 6 studios. The move also marked RT's switch of all of its English-language news broadcasting to High Definition format.[9][70][71]

In 2013, a presidential decree issued by Vladimir Putin dissolved RIA Novosti and subsumed it into a new information agency called Russia Today. According to a report on the RT website, the new Russia Today news agency is "in no way related" to the RT news channel despite the similarity to RT's original name.[72] However, on 31 December 2013, RT news channel editor-in-chief Margarita Simonyan was cross-appointed as editor-in-chief of both RT news channel and the new news agency.[73]

RT cooperates with a number of media sources in Russia and abroad, including private media like Izvestia, Kommersant, Trud, Nezavisimaya Gazeta, Vedomosti, Argumenty i Fakty and the non-Russian Association for International Broadcasting, Huffington Post, and News.com.au.[74]

Budget

RT cost $30 million to establish in 2005[69] and $30 million for its first year of operation. About half of the network's budget came from the state and the other half from banks and companies friendly to the government.[24] Its budget in dollars was approximately $80 million in 2007, $120 million in 2008, $380 million in 2011 and $300 million in 2012.[75][76][77] Putin has prohibited funding for Russia Today from being reduced as of October 30, 2012.[78]

Network

RT broadcast through 30 satellite and 500 cable operators to 550 million people in over 100 countries, 25 percent of all cable subscribers worldwide. In addition to its English-language broadcast, RT also runs Rusiya Al-Yaum, an Arabic language channel, and Actualidad RT, a Spanish-language channel, as well as a documentary channel, RTDoc. RT has 21 bureaus in 16 countries, including Washington, D.C., New York, London, Paris, Delhi, Cairo, Baghdad, Kiev. It employs over 2,000 media professionals worldwide.[2]

RT consists of its main RT International English language channel, RT America, RT Arabic, Actualidad RT in Spanish, and RT Documentary.

Channel Description Language Launched Website
RT News The flagship news channel of the RT network, it covers international and regional news from a Russian perspective. It also includes commentary and documentary programs. Based in Moscow with a presence in Washington, New York, London, Paris, Delhi, Cairo, Baghdad, Kiev and other cities.[2] English 2005 rt.com
Rusiya Al-Yaum Based in Moscow and broadcast 24/7. Programmes include news, feature programming and documentaries. Arabic 2007 arabic.rt.com
RT Actualidad Based in Moscow with bureaus in Miami, Los Angeles, Havana and Buenos Aires. Covers headline news, politics, sports, and broadcast specials.[79] Spanish 2009 actualidad.rt.com
RT America Covers the Americas from an international and Russian perspective. Based in RT's Washington, D.C. Bureau. It includes programs hosted by American journalists and has a separate schedule from 4pm to 12am Eastern Time Monday thru Friday; otherwise it simulcasts RT News. English 2010 rt.com/usa
RT Documentary 24-hour documentary channel. The bulk of its programming is RT-produced documentaries related to Russia.[80] English, Russian 2011 rtd.rt.com, rtdru.rt.com

The RT website offers a live stream available online to computer or mobile devices. It provides many of its newscasts and featured shows via YouTube. RT is transmitted on 22 satellites, covering much of Europe, Asia, the Americas, Africa and Australasia on a variety of carriers listed at its website.[81] In September 2012 RT signed a contract with the Israeli company RRSat to distribute high definition channels to the United States, Latin America and Asia.[82]

RT cooperates with a number of media sources in Russia and abroad, including private media like Izvestia, Kommersant, Trud, Nezavisimaya Gazeta, Vedomosti, Argumenty i Fakty and the non-Russian Association for International Broadcasting, Huffington Post, and News.com.au.[74] In October 2012 RT's Rusiya Al-Yaum and Russia Today joined the High Definition network Al Yah Satellite Communications ("YahLive').[83]

Programming

RT America broadcast with former anchor Liz Wahl

RT International English language channel and RT America have similar programming with the latter covering more news from the United States. RT Arabic and Actualidad RT in Spanish feature their own news presenters, as well as translated versions of RT's English programming.

Marcin Maczka writes that RT's ample financing has allowed RT to attract experienced journalists and use the latest technology.[75] RT anchors and correspondents tend to concentrate on controversial world issues such as the financial instability and fiscal crises, financial and banking scandals, corporate impact on the global economy, and demonstrations of protesters. News from Russia is of secondary importance and such reports emphasize Russian modernisation and economic achievements, as well as Russian culture and natural landscapes, while downplaying Russia's social problems or corruption.[21][75] RT's current feature programs include (with presenters parenthesised):[84]

Presenters

RT's current listing of "On Air Talent" includes:[84]

News anchors and presenters: Bill Dod, Marina Dzhashi, Andrew Farmer, Kristine Frazao (Washington, DC), Cary Johnston, Abby Martin (Breaking the Set, Washington DC), Dmitry Medvedenko (Business), Thabang Motsei, Anissa Naouai, Kevin Owen, Yulia Shapovalova, Rory Suchet, Sean Thomas, Matt Trezza, Margaret Howell (Washington DC), Lucy Kafanov, George Galloway (UK)

Sean Thomas reporting from Antarctica, 2009.

Correspondents: Tesa Arcilla, Denis Bolotsky, Oksana Boyko, Anastasia Churkina, Gayane Chichakyan, Anya Fedorova (Prime Time), Maria Finoshina, Sara Firth, Lindsay France, Ramon Galindo (Los Angeles), Irina Galushko, Lori Harfenist (New York), Meghan Lopez,[102][103] Natalia Novikova, Pete Oliver, Darya Pushkova, Egor Piskunov, Marina Portnaya (New York), Paula Slier (Middle East), Laura Smith (London), Priya Sridhar (South Asia), Natalia Shanetskaya, Polly Boiko, Bel Trew

Business presenters: Katie Pilbeam, Madina Kochenova, Max Keiser, Stacy Herbert

Documentary presenters: Martyn Andrews (entertainment, cookery and travel, formerly of Wayfarer/Moscow Out/Venice of the North), James Brown ('Discovering Russia', formerly news and Close-Up Russia)

Sport presenters: Kate Partridge, Michael Kravchenko, Richard Van Poortvliet,

Notable past presenters: Adam Kokesh (Adam vs. the Man), Neave Barker, Jason de la Peña, Alyona Minkovski (The Alyona Show), Maryam Nemazee, Karen Roberts, Dmitry Glukhovsky, Cenk Uygur, Lauren Lyster (Capital Account), Liz Wahl (Washington, D.C. )

Notable guests

Russian President Vladimir Putin RT interview, 6 September 2012

According to Jesse Zwick, RT persuades "legitimate experts and journalists" to appear as guests by allowing them to speak at length on issues ignored by larger news outlets. It frequently interviews progressive and libertarian academics, intellectuals and writers from organisations like The Nation, Reason magazine, Human Events, Center for American Progress[104] and the Cato Institute[29] who are critical of United States foreign and civil liberties policies.[104] RT also features little known commentators, including anarchists, anti-globalists and left-wing activists.[75] Journalist Danny Schechter holds that a primary reason for RT's success in the United States is that RT is "a force for diversity" which gives voice to people "who rarely get heard in current mainstream US media."[23]

Notable guests have included: politicians such as Nigel Farage, Nick Griffin and Jeremy Corbyn (United Kingdom), Marine Le Pen (France), Avraham Burg (Israel), Henry Kissinger, Dana Rohrabacher, Lawrence Wilkerson and Alan K. Simpson (United States);,[105] think tank intellectuals like Jared Bernstein,[29] John Feffer and Lawrence Korb; journalists and writers Jacob Sullum, Pepe Escobar,[104] Brian Doherty,[106] Chris Hedges and Naomi Wolf; current and former professors Craig Calhoun, Norman Finkelstein and Noam Chomsky; and assorted guests like former lobbyist Jack Abramoff and Apple Inc. co-founder Steve Wozniak.[107][discuss]

Other notable guests include heads of state and government leaders such as Vladimir Putin,[108] Nouri Al-Maliki,[109] Rafael Correa,[106] Bashar al-Assad,[110] Daniel Ortega,[111] Alexander Lukashenko,[112] Mahmoud Abbas,[113] Fernando Lugo,[114] Evo Morales,[115] Felipe Calderón,[116] Tomislav Nikolić,[117] Nicolás Maduro,[118] Andrius Kubilius,[119] Hamid Karzai,[120] Federico Franco,[121] Ali Abdullah Saleh,[122] Mahmoud Ahmadinejad[123] Moncef Marzouki,[124] Porfirio Lobo Sosa,[125] Otto Pérez Molina,[126] Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi,[127] José Mujica,[128] Alex Salmond[129] and Jacob Zuma.[130]

Reception

Programming

In 2008, Heidi Brown wrote in Forbes that "the Kremlin is using charm, good photography and a healthy dose of sex appeal to appeal to a diverse, skeptical audience. The result is entertaining--and ineffably Russian." She added that Russia Today has managed to "get foreigners to at least consider the Russian viewpoint--however eccentric it may be..."[131] In 2012 Tracy Quan wrote that RT is "a far more interesting network than some care to admit."[106] Mark Adomanis, who has appeared on RT, wrote "I generally find RT as a station to be tabloidy, a bit over-hyped, and basically harmless."[51]

The Alyona Show starring Alyona Minkovski ran from 2009 to 2012 until she joined the Huffington Post. Tracy Quan in The Daily Beast described The Alyona Show as "one of RT's most popular vehicles".[132] Jesse Zwick in The New Republic wrote that one journalist told him that Minkovski is "probably the best interviewer on cable news."[104] Benjamin R. Freed wrote in the avant-garde culture magazine SOMA that "The Alyona Show does political talk with razor-sharp wit."[133] David Weigel called the show "an in-house attempt at a newsy cult hit" and noted that "her meatiest segments were about government spying, and the Federal Reserve, and America's undeclared wars".[29] Minkovski has complained about being characterized as if she was "Putin's girl in Washington" or as being "anti-American".[133] After Minkovski argued that Glenn Beck was "not on the side of America. And the fact that my channel is more honest with the American people is something you should be ashamed of." Julia Ioffe in the Columbia Journalism Review asked "Since when does Russia Today defend the policies of any American president? Or the informational needs of the American public, for that matter?"[31]

From April to August 2011 RT ran a half-hour primetime show "Adam vs. the Man" [134][135] hosted by former Iraq War Marine veteran and high profile anti-war activist Adam Kokesh. David Weigel writes that Kokesh defended RT's "propaganda" function, saying "We're putting out the truth that no one else wants to say. I mean, if you want to put it in the worst possible abstract, it's the Russian government, which is a competing protection racket against the other governments of the world, going against the United States and calling them on their bullshit."[29] Accuracy in Media criticized Kokesh's appearing on RT, writing RT uses Americans like Kokesh to make propaganda points.[136] In a June show Kokesh endorsed support and fundraising for Ron Paul's 2012 presidential campaign, leading to a complaint to the Federal Election Commission charging a political contribution had been made by a foreign corporation. Kokesh denied his cancellation in August was related to the complaint.[135]

Reviewing Julian Assange's show World Tomorrow, The Independent noted that Assange, who was under house arrest, was "largely deferential" in asking some questions of Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah, who himself was in hiding. However, he also asked tough questions like why Nasrallah had not supported Arab revolts against Syrian leaders, when he had supported them in Tunisia, Yemen, Egypt, and other countries.[48] Allesandra Stanley in the New York Times wrote that "practically speaking, Mr. Assange is in bed with the Kremlin, but on Tuesday's show he didn't put out" and that he "behaved surprisingly like a standard network interviewer."[47] Douglas Lucas in Salon wrote that the RT deal "may just be a profitable way for him to get a gigantic retweet."[32] Glenn Greenwald, who has been a guest on RT,[137] wrote that RT presenting the Julian Assange show led to "a predictable wave of snide, smug attacks from American media figures".[52] Mark Adomanis rebuts some of the "fevered denunciations" against RT and Julian Assange in an article in Forbes.[51] A Moscow Times writer noted that RT has received "considerable" criticism in general.[27]

Criticism

Since its foundation in 2005, RT has been widely accused as being a mouthpiece of the Kremlin. In an interview with US government-owned external broadcaster Voice of America, the Russian-Israeli blogger Anton Nosik (ru) said the creation of Russia Today "smacks of Soviet-style propaganda campaigns."[138] A representative of Reporters Without Borders called the newly announced network "another step of the state to control information."[139] In 2009, Luke Harding in The Guardian described Russia Today's advertising campaign in the United Kingdom as an "ambitious attempt to create a new post-Soviet global propaganda empire."[33]

In 2010, The Independent reported that RT journalists had revealed that coverage of sensitive issues in Russia is allowed, but direct criticism of Vladimir Putin or then President Dmitry Medvedev is not.[23] Masha Karp wrote in Standpoint magazine that contemporary Russian issues "such as the suppression of free speech and peaceful demonstrations, or the economic inefficiency and corrupt judiciary, are either ignored or their significance played down".[140] In 2008 Stephen Heyman wrote in The New York Times that in RT's Russia, "corruption is not quite a scourge but a symptom of a developing economy."[21]

James Kirchick in The New Republic accused the network of "often virulent anti-Americanism, worshipful portrayal of Russian leaders."[141] Ed Lucas wrote in The Economist (quoted in Al Jazeera) that the core of RT was "anti-Westernism."[142] Julia Ioffe wrote "Often, it seemed that Russia Today was just a way to stick it to the U.S. from behind the façade of legitimate newsgathering."[31] Shaun Walker wrote in The Independent that RT "has made a name for itself as a strident critic of US policy."[143] Allesandra Stanley in The New York Times wrote that RT is "like the Voice of America, only with more money and a zesty anti-American slant."[47] David Weigel writes that RT goes further than merely creating distrust of the United States government, to saying, in effect: "You can trust the Russians more than you can trust those bastards."[29]

Martyn Andrews reporting from Siberia, 2007.

Russian studies professor Stephen F. Cohen stated in 2012 that RT does a lot of stories that "reflect badly" on the United States and that they are "particularly aggrieved by American sermonizing abroad." Thus RT compares stories about Russia allowing mass protests of the 2011–2012 Russian election protests with those of U.S. authorities nationwide arresting members of the Occupy movement. Cohen states that despite the pro-Kremlin slant, "any intelligent viewer can sort this out. I doubt that many idiots find their way to RT."[104]

John Feffer, codirector of Foreign Policy in Focus says he appears on RT as well as the U.S.-funded Voice of America and Radio Free Asia, commenting "You're going to find blind spots in the coverage for any news organization."[104] American journalist Glenn Greenwald listed the corporate and government owners of prominent western media like NBC, BBC, Voice of America, Wall Street Journal, Fox News, Politico and The Washington Post and asked why it was "an intrinsic violation of journalistic integrity to work for a media outlet owned by the Russian government." He also wrote that the real cause of American media hostility toward RT is that "the reporting it does reflects poorly on the U.S. Government, the ultimate sin in the eyes of our 'adversarial' press corps."[52]

An 2013 article in Der Spiegel noted that RT is the most successful foreign broadcaster in many American cities and that RT "uses a chaotic mixture of conspiracy theories and crude propaganda", referring to a program which linked the Boston Marathon bombings to a US government conspiracy.[144]

RT has been accused of being anti-Israel by Jewish and Israeli sources. The main claims are that its reporting is unbalanced. Israeli foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman made a complaint to Putin at their official meeting in 2012.[145][146][147][148] RT has made Manuel Ochsenreiter, a neo-Nazi, its primary on-air spokesman for the German point of view.[149]

In Russia, former KGB officer Konstantin Preobrazhensky criticized RT as "a part of the Russian industry of misinformation and manipulation".[150] Andrey Illarionov, former advisor to Vladimir Putin, has labeled the channel as "the best Russian propaganda machine targeted at the outside world. On the other hand, prominent Russian officials such as Foreign Minister of Russia Sergey Lavrov are strong advocates of RT."[75]

In response to critics, ANO TV-Novosti (RT's parent organization) General director (CEO) Sergey Frolov stated that their "responsibility is not to be someone's lawyer or prosecutor. It is too stupid to hold information, because then you have to repeat it from others. We do our best to respond swiftly and impartially. Present the facts and not speculate or theorize. Actually, the problem is very simple: If we start to filter news or silent something - people will switch to CNN or BBC."[19]

Linas Antanas Linkevičius, Lithuania's Minister of Foreign Affairs, tweeted on March 9, 2014 amid the Crimean crisis, "Russia Today propaganda machine is no less destructive than military marching in Crimea".[151]

Guests

In 2010 journalist and blogger Julia Ioffe described RT as being "provocative just for the sake of being provocative" in its choice of guests and issue topics, featuring a Russian historian who predicted the United States would soon be dissolved, showing speeches by Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez, reporting on homelessness in America, and interviewing the chairman of the New Black Panther Party. She wrote that in attempting to offer "an alternate point of view, it is forced to talk to marginal, offensive, and often irrelevant figures".[31] The Economist magazine noted that RT's programming, while sometimes interesting and unobjectionable, and sometimes "hard-edged", also presents "wild conspiracy theories" that can be regarded as "kooky".[152] A 2010 Southern Poverty Law Center report alleged that RT extensively covered the "birther" and the "New World Order" conspiracy theories and interviewed militia organizer Jim Stachowiak and white nationalist Jared Taylor.[153] An Al Jazeera article stated that RT has a penchant "for off-beat stories and conspiracy theories."[142]

Jesse Zwick writes that RT has provided a "disproportionate amount of time" to covering libertarian Republican Ron Paul.[104] Paul also has been interviewed on RT.[154]

Margarita Simonyan has said that "we don't give airtime to public figures who you call extremist any more than CNN and other channels give airtime to people who many in Russia consider extremists".[153] She also criticized Western media reports blaming Vladimir Putin for the 1999 apartment bombings in Russia that killed 293 people.[155] She told Nikolaus von Twickel of The Moscow Times that RT started to grow once it became provocative and that controversy was vital to the station. She said that RT's task was not to polish Moscow's reputation.[25]

Responses to RT's news coverage

During the 2008 South Ossetia War Russia Today correspondent William Dunbar resigned because he was not allowed to report on Russian airstrikes on civilian targets and stated "any issue where there is a Kremlin line, RT is sure to toe it."[156] Human Rights Watch said that the RT claim of 2,000 South Ossetian casualties was exaggerated.[157][158] The Moscow correspondent for The Independent wrote that Russia Today had "instructed reporters not to report from Georgian villages within South Ossetia that had been ethnically cleansed."[159] Julia Ioffe wrote that an RT journalist whose reporting deviated from "the Kremlin line that Georgians were slaughtering unarmed Ossetians" was reprimanded.[31]

According to Variety magazine, sources at RT confirmed that correspondent William Dunbar had resigned but rejected allegations of bias. One senior RT journalist told Variety: "The Russian coverage I have seen has been much better than much of the Western coverage... When you look at the Western media, there is a lot of genuflection towards the powers that be. Russian news coverage is largely pro-Russia, but that is to be expected."[160]

In September 2012, United Kingdom broadcast regulator Ofcom found that two Libyan dispatches broadcast by Lizzie Phelan on RT in August 2011 were in breach of its code on accuracy and impartiality. One stated that Libyan rebels had little popular support and another criticized Western media as lying about the NATO operations. It held that Broadcasters should note that "when items in their news programmes criticise the policies and actions of individuals, organisations, governments or states, they must not only be presented with due impartiality but also reported with due accuracy."[161]

RT team covering protests in Bolotnaya Square in Moscow on December 10, 2011

According to The Independent, RT covered all the protests that started in December 2011 and lead up to the March 2012 Russian presidential election. However, Margarita Simonyan tweeted that protesters should "burn in hell" and RT accused opposition leader Alexei Navalny of having strong and even bigoted Russian nationalist views.[162][163]

After a May 2012 protest broke into violence between police and protesters, Simonyan tweeted "You were warned that all your starry-eyed idealism would end in fanatical carnage."[164] RT blamed the clashes on "a number of radical protesters."[165] Alexei Navalny, who exposed massive corruption and theft in Kremlin-connected companies, frequently has been covered in a negative fashion on RT,[143] including coverage of the search of his home and office during an investigation of the May clashes.[166] Putin chose RT for his first televised interview after the election and stated that new laws against non-governmental organizations, street rally disorders or defamation only had to do with "crime and legal procedure, not politics."[108]

In 2012 Jesse Zwick in The New Republic criticized RT, alleging it held that "civilian casualties in Syria are minimal, foreign intervention would be disastrous, and any humanitarian appeals from Western nations are a thin veil for a NATO-backed move to isolate Iran, China, and Russia." He wrote that RT wants to "make the United States look out of line for lecturing Russia." Zwick also noted that Stephen F. Cohen has criticized western coverage of the Syrian conflict, saying he was suspicious of CNN coverage and that "It seems to be the flip side of RT. It's too black and white, too virtuous and simple. Each side sounds like one hand clapping."[104]

In December 2013, the UK broadcast regulator Ofcom again found RT in breach of its standards in relation to the impartiality of a documentary entitled "Syrian Diary" broadcast the previous March.[167]

On March 4, 2014, RT's 'Breaking The Set' host Abby Martin, speaking directly to her viewing audience in her show's closing statement, said that even though she works for RT, she is against Russia's intervention in Ukraine. She said that "what Russia did is wrong", as she is against intervention by any nation into other countries' affairs.[168] Later Martin asserted that RT still supports her despite her differences of opinion with the Russian government.[169]

On March 5, 2014, RT anchor Liz Wahl, of the network's Washington, DC, bureau, resigned on air, blaming RT for propaganda. She explained later "that she felt challenged being the daughter of a U.S. military veteran and being the partner of a physician who works at a U.S. military base, and that is why, personally, she cannot be part of a network funded by the Russian government that whitewashes the actions of Putin". Wahl claimed that what 'broke' her was that RT censored a question from her interview with Ron Paul about "Russia's intervention in Ukraine". Ron Paul later asserted that he was not censored in any way and that his message was delivered in full and to his satisfaction.[170] Furthermore, the sentence Wahl accused RT of cutting out, supposedly containing the term "intervention", actually contained the term "invasion" and it was in fact televised in full.[171] In response, RT released a statement: "When a journalist disagrees with the editorial position of his or her organization, the usual course of action is to address those grievances with the editor, and, if they cannot be resolved, to quit like a professional. But when someone makes a big public show of a personal decision, it is nothing more than a self-promotional stunt. We wish Liz the best of luck on her chosen path".[172] In a later article in Politico magazine Wahl stated “For about two and a half years. I’d looked the other way as the network smeared America for the sake of making the Kremlin look better by comparison, while it sugarcoated atrocities by one brutal dictator after another.”[173]

When asked about a clip of her interviewing a guest on RT by CNN Reliable Sources host Brian Stelter, Liz Wahl responded,

"They get these extreme voices on that have this kind of hostile toward the West viewpoints towards the world, very extremist. These are the people that they have on. And when I was on the anchor desk, they would instruct you to egg on these guests and try to get them, you know, rallied up, to really fire off their anti-American talking points. Listen, I'm all about exposing government corruption. I'm all about being critical of the government. But this is different. This is promoting the foreign policy of somebody that is,[sic] has just invaded a country, has invaded the country and is then lying about it, is using the media as a tool to fulfill his foreign policy interests. And RT is part of Putin's propaganda network and it's very, very troubling in the wake of what is going on in Ukraine today."[174]

New York Times op-ed columnist, Nicholas Kristof commented on Piers Morgan Live about Wahl's and Martin's initial actions, "admire their outspokenness but, you know, at the end of the day, RT is a Russian propaganda arm, and I don't think its going to matter very much to the geopolitical consequences here."[175]

American political journalist Glenn Greenwald responded to criticism by writing, "American media elites awash in an orgy of feel-good condemnation in particular love to mock Russian media, especially the government-funded English-language outlet RT, as being a source of shameless pro-Putin propaganda, where free expression is strictly barred (in contrast to the Free American Media). That that network has a strong pro-Russian bias is unquestionably true."[176]

RT responded to the accusations of Propaganda, stating "The charges of propaganda tend to pop up every time a news outlet, particularly RT, dares to show the side of events that does not fit the mainstream narrative, regardless of the realities on the ground. This happened in Georgia, this is happening in Ukraine".[177] At the same time, the network relishes in its reputation as propaganda "we put the fact that this is propaganda right out front. We're putting out the truth that no one else wants to say. "Truth is the best propaganda"."[178]

Professional awards

  • September 2006 – The 10th "Golden Tambourine" International Festival for Television programs and films[179] awarded RT's documentary People of the Bering Strait in the Ethnography and Travel category
  • June 2007 – The 11th "Save and Preserve" International Environmental Television Festival[180] awarded its Grand Prix to RT's Meeting with Nature series.
  • September 2007 – Eurasian Academy of Television and Radio[181] awarded RT with the Prize for Professional Skillfulness
  • November 2007 – RT's report on the anniversary of the Chernobyl catastrophe received a special prize from the international 2007 AIB Media Excellence Awards[182]
  • April 2008 – RT's daily studio show Entertainment Today hosted by Martyn Andrews and Anya Fedorova receives a special diploma from the board of the Russian Entertainment Awards[183]
  • September 2008 – Russia's most prestigious broadcasting award TEFI to Kevin Owen in Best News Anchor category[184]
  • November 2008 – Special Jury Award in the Best Creative Feature category for a Russian Glamour feature story at Media Excellence Awards in London[2]
  • January 2009 – Silver World Medal from the New York Festivals, for Best News Documentary "A city of desolate mothers" [185]
  • August 2010 – First nomination for an International Emmy Award in News category for its coverage of president Barack Obama's trip to Russia.[186]
  • November 2011 – Martyn Andrews and the weekly "Moscow Out" arts and entertainment show awarded the "ShereMedia Award" for Best Lifestyle Program[187]
  • August 2012 – Second nomination for an International Emmy Award for its coverage of the international Occupy Wall Street movement.[188]

See also

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