The UK culture secretary has written to Ofcom asking it to look at whether the Russian TV station RT should be allowed to broadcast “harmful disinformation” in the UK, Boris Johnson told the Commons.
Challenged by Keir Starmer at prime minister’s questions over a “limited sanctions response” to the arrival of Russian forces in Ukraine, Johnson said the culture secretary, Nadine Dorries, had contacted the broadcasting watchdog about RT.
Dorries’ letter to the regulator said RT was “demonstrably part of Russia’s global disinformation campaign”, and that it appeared clear the channel would seek to continue this role amid events in Ukraine.
“I have concerns that broadcasters such as RT, whom Ofcom have found to have repeatedly breached the broadcasting code in the past, will also look to spread harmful disinformation about the ongoing crisis in Ukraine here in the UK,” Dorries wrote.
Johnson announced the review after being challenged by Starmer over RT. “We must also do more to defeat [Vladimir] Putin’s campaign of lies and disinformation,” Starmer said. “Russia Today is his personal propaganda tool. I can see no reason why it should be allowed to continue to broadcast in this country.”
Elsewhere in PMQs the Labour leader questioned Johnson over the extent of sanctions imposed on some Russian banks and a handful of individuals, announced on Tuesday. “The prime minister promised that in the event of an invasion, he would unleash a full package of sanctions. If not now, then when?” Starmer asked.
Johnson responded by saying the UK was “out in front” on sanctions, saying that further measures would be taken but that it was also necessary to impose them in union with allies.
Starmer called for the government’s delayed economic crime bill to be brought forward to help tackle complex networks of Russian money in the UK, and also demanded tougher rules on donations from shell companies.
“As it stands, the bill would allow unfettered…