UK media regulator fines Latvian Russian-language TV channel

UK communications regulator Ofcom fined Baltic Media Alliance 20,000 pounds (23,000 euros) after receiving a complaint from the Latvian National Electronic Mass Media Council (NEPLP) regarding violations on the NTV Mir Baltic television channel broadcast by the company, according to the regulator on February 17.

The Ofcom investigation found that “that the programme failed to maintain due impartiality and had breached Rules 5.1, 5.11 and 5.12 of the Ofcom Broadcasting Code,” said the press release.

The rules violated are as follows:

  • Rule 5.1: “News, in whatever form, must be reported with due accuracy and presented with due impartiality”.
  • Rule 5.11: “…due impartiality must be preserved on matters of major political and industrial controversy and major matters relating to current public policy by the person providing a service…in each programme or in clearly linked and timely programmes”.
  • Rule 5.12: “In dealing with matters of major political and industrial controversy and major matters relating to current public policy an appropriately wide range of significant views must be included and given due weight in each programme or in clearly linked and timely programmes. Views and facts must not be misrepresented”. 

NTV Mir Baltic broadcasts to the Russian-speaking community in Latvia, and the program covered in the complaint was a news show called Today (Segodnya). The segment in question that was deemed to violate impartiality rules discussed the UK and Russian government actions regarding the poisoning of Sergei and Yulia Skripal.

“…there are lots of questions, and the inability of our British colleagues to answer them will mean only one thing – that all this is a fabrication and, to put it more directly, a gross provocation,” said Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in a clip.

Ofcom has found the TV channel to be in violation of the broadcasting code on six separate occasions since 2014. The NEPLP monitoring center has also previously found that the program Today doesn't follow objectivity and precision guidelines and often discusses unfounded opinions or views. In this case the program only discussed the side of the story that the poisoning could be fake, as well as an aggressive provocation.

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“Over the last years we're increasingly finding that the Kremlin propaganda machinery operates throughout Europe using massive financial resources, legal nuances, and the aggressive violation of the basic principles of journalism,” said NEPLP Deputy Chair Ivars Āboliņš.

The company owning the channel is registered in the UK and therefore subject to the UK broadcast regulations. The money will be paid to the UKPaymaster General. The full decision of OFCOM is attached to this story. The Breach Decision was the sixth time that the company had breached the UK's impartiality rules on its channels NTV Mir Lithuania and NTV Mir Baltic since November 2014 .

As previously reported, relations between Moscow and London seriously deteriorated after the poisoning of Sergei Skripal, a former double agent, and his daughter, Yulia, in 2018 in Salisbury, UK.
 

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