CRTC Bans Russian State-Run Broadcaster RT From Canadian Airwaves

CRTC Bans Russian State-Run Broadcaster RT From Canadian Airwaves
The logo for Russian state-owned television station RT is seen at the window of the company's office in Moscow, Russia on Oct. 27, 2017. (The Canadian Press/AP-Pavel Golovkin)
The Canadian Press

Canadian broadcasters are no longer allowed to distribute Russia’s state-run broadcaster, RT, after the federal regulator found the programming has targeted Ukrainians during the ongoing Russian invasion.

The Canadian Radio-television and Communications Commission is removing RT, formerly known as Russia Today, and RT France from its authorized list of non-Canadian programming services and stations.

The commission can de-authorize services if it believes the content would violate regulations that apply to licensed Canadian broadcasters, and said that if RT and RT France were Canadian, it would have “called them to account.”

It said the content constitutes abusive comment and is “likely to expose the Ukrainian people to hatred or contempt on the basis of their race, national or ethnic origin.”

The federal government formally asked the CRTC to review the presence of the Kremlin-backed broadcaster on Canadian airwaves on March 2.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said at the time that action was needed to combat falsehoods and disinformation by Russia about the invasion of Ukraine, including on social media.

The commission said the Russian government’s actions in limiting journalistic independence of news agencies and directing content on state-run broadcasters like RT goes against freedom of expression and journalistic independence, a key principle in Canadian broadcasting.

Rogers, Bell, Telus and Shaw have already pulled RT from their channel lineups, meaning that as far as the CRTC is aware, no Canadian broadcaster was distributing it by the time it was under review.

The European Union banned RT this month and the British broadcast regulator has launched multiple investigations into the impartiality of the channel.

Canada has also imposed sanctions on RT’s editor-in-chief, Margarita Simonyan, who’s been described by the EU as a central figure in Russian government propaganda.

The Russian state-backed news channel was founded in 2005 and broadcasts in more than 100 countries in many languages.

The CRTC asked for submissions from broadcasters and the public before making its decision. Only 16 of the 373 interventions were against a ban on RT.

The commission said many submissions contained “strong condemnation of Russian aggression in Ukraine” and the impact of Russian state-owned media on the perception of Ukrainians.

None of the interveners disputed the fact that RT is controlled by the Russian government and contains at least some government propaganda.

While concerns were raised by some about freedom of expression and censorship, the CRTC said Canadians can still access RT online if they choose.

By Sarah Ritchie