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German regulators say RT lacks broadcast license

December 17, 2021

German media regulators have said Russian state-run RT launched live broadcasts without a license. RT's German affiliate hoped to circumvent German regulators with a Serbian license.

The RT logo in Germany
YouTube blocked RT's latest German language efforts after just five hours, the Kremlin-backed network said FridayImage: Dwi Anoraganingrum/Future Image/imago images

Germany's media regulators Friday initiated proceedings against Russia's state-run broadcaster RT for live broadcasts in Germany without a broadcasting license.

Eva Flecken, the director of the Berlin-Brandenburg media authority, told German press agency dpa that RT's new format over several platforms "unquestionably" consists of broadcasting. She told Reuters news agency that RT's German affiliate had neither sought nor received a license from her authority.

"The broadcaster has until the end of the year to comment on the matter," Flecken said.

Legally, the media regulator's action can end with a fine of up to €500,000 ($563,700) and RT can potentially be banned. RT is permitted to challenge any decisions in court.

How does RT reach Germany?

Formerly known as Russia Today, RT is routinely criticized as a Kremlin mouthpiece as opposed to real, fact-based journalism. The network hopes to expand its viewership in Germany and has been plotting a German-language television channel for a considerable amount of time.

As of Thursday, the network's livestream can be seen on the channel's website among other places, including via satellite to 33 European countries using a license it secured in Serbia, where the government favors Russian interests. Critics say the Serbian registration is an effort to circumvent less favorable EU laws.

In a statement on its website, RT's German affiliate referred to a European convention permitting broadcasting to Germany with the license obtained in Serbia. The German regulator said a preliminary assessment indicates the Serbian license is insufficient.

What is the status of RT in Germany?

RT has a studio in Berlin and previously the outlet attempted to get a license in Luxembourg but failed to do so.

Because the German language version of RT is organized by a Berlin-based production outfit, German media regulators argue the network falls under Germany's jurisdiction.

German security services have classified RT's German service to be a propaganda arm of the Russian state.

RT said YouTube had blocked its new German-language channel only five hours after launch. Russia's communications regulator Roskomnadzor said it requested Google restore its channel, calling its status "destructive" censorship.


ar/sms (AFP, dpa, Reuters)