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Russia's RT to launch French channel

December 18, 2017

Russia's RT is to go on air in France, whose president has previously slammed it for being a "propaganda organ." But the broadcaster says it has no more of a hidden agenda than other state-funded international networks.

Galerie - Russisches Fernsehen
Image: picture-alliance/dpa

Russian state broadcaster RT, formerly Russia Today, was due to launch a French-language channel on Monday, almost seven months after French President Emmanuel Macron accused it of spreading "deceitful propaganda."

"Fingers crossed we'll go on air tonight," Xenia Fedorova, RT's station manager and editor-in-chief, told journalists on Monday.

The TV network will be located in western Paris and will employ 50 journalists. The launch has a budget of around 20 million euros ($23.6 million).

Read more: Google uncovers Russia-linked ad campaigns aimed at manipulating US election

RT already has a French presence through its French-language website and YouTube channel, which has videos dubbed or subtitled in French.

Fedorova insisted the network had no more of a hidden agenda than any other state-funded global network, such as BBC World, Al-Jazeera or France 24.

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"We are not coming to France with the intention of broadcasting fake or partial news," she told AFP during an interview in October.

"Our slogan is: Dare to question. We want to encourage viewers to ask questions and to think outside the information bubble of the mainstream media," she said, adding that editorial decisions would be made in Paris, not Moscow.

'Agents of influence'

RT has been accused of meddling in the US election, along with state news agency Sputnik, and spreading rumors about Macron during the 2017 French election.

The head of Frances's CSA broadcasting authority Olivier Schramick has warned that CSA will be watching RT's every step and will intervene quickly if any "anomalies” occur.

Speaking alongside Putin at a press conference in May, Macron accused RT and Sputnik of being "agents of influence ... and deceitful propaganda" who spread "defamatory untruths."

French President Emmanuel Macron and Russian President Vladimir Putin walk together at Versailles in France
French President Emmanuel Macron has accused RT of spreading "deceitful propaganda"Image: Reuters/P. Wojazer

His camp had complained of a "smear campaign" during the French presidential campaign after Sputnik reported comments from a conservative MP accusing Macron of being a "US agent" backed by a "gay lobby."

Read more: French and Russian presidents meet in Versailles

Following Macron's comments, and with RT and Sputnik being banned from Macron's events, RT released an article titled "Macron leads war on ‘deceitful propaganda' against RT – but #ZeroFactsGiven.”

International backlash

RT already has 14 warnings from British regulator Ofcom for reporting that was deemed untruthful or biased, particularly regarding Syria and Ukraine.

Read more: Twitter bans ads from RT and Sputnik citing electoral meddling

In September the United States' Justice Department ordered RT to register its operations as a "foreign agent” and Twitter banned advertising from both RT and Sputnik.

At Putin's annual December press conference, he dismissed the meddling allegations as the stuff of a "spy thriller.”

Russia Today was set up in the mid-2000s to counter what Russian President Vladimir Putin saw as the dominance of American and British international media organizations and their allegedly pro-Western bias.

law/tj (AFP, Reuters)