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Home Politics Labour demands licence review of Russian state-owned broadcaster RT

Labour demands licence review of Russian state-owned broadcaster RT

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Labour has written to Ofcom to review the licence of Putin-backed news agency RT after ‘troubling revelations’ in a bombshell report that Russia was attempting to exert influence on British life.

The party has gone to the UK’s broadcasting watchdog after Moscow was accused of a brazen plot to sway last year’s general election campaign in former leader Jeremy Corbyn‘s favour. 

Parliament’s Intelligence and Security Committee report said there was evidence of ‘serious distortions’ in RT coverage, laid bare last year when it was fined for not being impartial in seven news shows.    

Labour’s shadow culture secretary Jo Stevens has written to Ofcom’s chief executive Dame Melanie Dawes calling for a review RT’s licence following the Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC) report which looked into the role of the Russian state in UK politics.

Former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn appeared on RT. His party are now calling for a review into the broadcaster's licence

Former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn appeared on RT. His party are now calling for a review into the broadcaster’s licence

Labour, under its new moderate leader Sir Keir Starmer, said the Party 'condemns' all attempts by Russia to interfere in the democratic process

Labour, under its new moderate leader Sir Keir Starmer, said the Party ‘condemns’ all attempts by Russia to interfere in the democratic process

She said: ‘The long-awaited Russia report sets out in black and white issues that Ofcom has 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 RT plays in the spread of disinformation and attempts at broader political influence overseas, by Russia.

‘I am writing to request that Ofcom urgently reviews RT’s licence to broadcast within the UK in the light of this report.’

Ms Stevens has also asked Dame Melanie for a meeting to discuss her concerns.

The long-awaited ISC report outlined the role played by RT and Sputnik in spreading disinformation and attempts at broader political influence overseas.  

In 2019 Russia Today was  £200,000 having ruled that the news channel failed to preserve due impartiality in seven news and current affairs programmes between March 17 and April 26 2018.

In a letter to the media regulator, shadow culture secretary Jo Stevens also pointed to a court ruling which said RT’s reporting had caused ‘harm’.  

Labour has been rocked by the scandal after the trade papers – leaked internal documents on negotiations between the UK and the US – were publicised by the hard-Left leader days before the election.

In what he hoped would be a bombshell moment in the 2019 campaign, Mr Corbyn insisted the papers proved that the Tories were planning to sell parts of the NHS off to private US health giants. 

During the election campaign, Mr Corbyn revealed papers he said proved that the Tories were planning to sell parts of the NHS off to private US health giants

During the election campaign, Mr Corbyn revealed papers he said proved that the Tories were planning to sell parts of the NHS off to private US health giants

After the claims emerged Labour, under its new moderate leader Sir Keir Starmer, said the Party ‘condemns’ all attempts by Russia to interfere in the democratic process.

But Mr Corbyn remained defiant, claiming that the Government was running a ruse to deflect attention from the threat to the NHS from American companies and Tories’ links to Russian oligarchs. 

Downing Street would not say whether the Government thought the documents had been directly passed to Mr Corbyn’s Labour Party by Russian operatives.

They would also not say whether the Government was investigating links between Moscow and the Labour Party. The leaked documents played a prominent role in the 2019 campaign. In late November, just days before the election, Mr Corbyn held a special news conference at short notice in which he brandished the papers.

He said they proved the NHS was ‘on the table’, which the Tories called an ‘out-and-out lie’.

Reddit said its own investigation had linked the appearance of the documents to a previous Russian disinformation campaign. 

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