CRTC bans Russian state broadcaster RT from Canadian airwaves

OTTAWA – Canadian broadcaster is no longer allowed to distribute Russia’s state-owned broadcaster, RT, after federal regulators found that the program targeted Ukrainian citizens during the ongoing Russian invasion.

The Canadian Radio-Television Commission removed RT, formerly known as Russia Today, and RT France from the official list of non-Canadian programming services and stations.

The commission can deauthorize a service if it believes the content would violate regulations applicable to Canadian licensed broadcasters, and said that if French RTs and RTs were Canadian, the commission would “call them to account.”

It said the content constituted abusive comments 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 Kremlin-backed broadcasters on Canadian airwaves on March 2.

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

The commission said the Russian government’s actions in limiting the journalistic independence of news agencies and directing content at state-owned broadcasters such as RT were against freedom of expression and journalistic independence, key tenets of Canadian broadcasting.

Rogers, Bell, Telus, and Shaw have pulled RT from their channel lists, meaning that as far as CRTC is concerned, no Canadian broadcaster is distributing it at the time it is under review.

The European Union banned RT this month and Britain’s broadcast regulator has launched several investigations into the channel’s impartiality.

Canada has also imposed sanctions on RT’s editor-in-chief, Margarita Simonyan, who is described by the European Union 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 seeks input from broadcasters and the public before making a decision. Only 16 of the 373 interventions opposed the RT ban.

The commission said many of the submissions contained “a strong condemnation of Russia’s aggression in Ukraine” and the impact of Russia’s state-owned media on perceptions of Ukrainians.

Neither of the intervening parties disputed the fact that RT was controlled by the Russian government and contained at least some government propaganda.

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

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 16, 2022.


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