Documents that show the shadowy UK outfit Institute for Statecraft previously filed complaints to Ofcom about RT raise the question if the impetus for the regulators most recent actions against RT came from the same source.
On Thursday, Ofcom announced it had found RT in breach of UK impartiality rules in seven instances, going back to March and April this year.
“RT is extremely disappointed by Ofcom's conclusions in what were almost all self-initiated investigations into RT by the regulator,” the network said in response.
Ofcom makes it public when a broadcast receives ten or more more complaints. Yet the purported complaints about RT shows are nowhere to be seen on its website, as former Scotland Yard detective Charles Shoebridge points out.
Its perhaps significant to note that @Ofcom lists programmes receiving ten or more complaints. No @RT_com broadcasts are listed, so its investigation was launched despite only a very small number of people having complained (see Audience Complaints: 2018)https://t.co/1O67P3FMZE
— Charles Shoebridge (@ShoebridgeC) December 20, 2018
Shoebridge then did some old-fashioned detective work, and found that Ofcom might have actually received external complaints about RT – but not from members of the British public, but a government sock-puppet, the “Institute for Statecraft.” That shadowy outfit was recently unmasked by a trove of leaked documents, published by a group claiming to be the hacker collective Anonymous.
The main objective of the Institute's Integrity Initiative is "to provide a coordinated Western response to Russian disinformation and other elements of hybrid warfare,” according to the published documents. The Institute for Statecraft is affiliated with the NATO HQ Public Diplomacy Division and a program funded by the UK Home Office.
Among the trove of documents, Shoebridge found a 2016 “production timetable” by the Institute for Statecraft. While it mostly a list of publications dominated by Ben Nimmo – the Atlantic Councils chief “Russian troll hunter” and Facebooks designated defender of democracy – it does contain this very interesting line item:
24 March: eight complaints forwarded to Ofcom on RT's failure to ensure due impartiality with request to launch a formal investigation
This raises the question of where the 2018 complaints about RT came from, Shoebridge wrote.
His research has attracted the attention of other journalists.
This is a big story, but only the tip of the iceberg, Im sure. A UK govt (FCO) funded body forwarding complaints to @ofcom in 2016 and requesting that the media regulator launches a formal investigation into a tv station (@RT_com ) which hosts dissident views. cc @DerbyChrisWpic.twitter.com/iT3hXOfvgS
— Neil Clark (@NeilClark66) December 20, 2018
Both the Institute and the Initiative have faced criticism in the UK over the past month, though not over targeting Russia as much as for their activities directed against the opposition Labour Party and its leader Jeremy Corbyn.
Meanwhile, Russias broadcast authority Roskomnadzor has responded to Ofcoms actions by opening an impartiality probe into the BBC, the British state broadcaster.
FACT: @BBC goons (working with @ofcom) censored and re-edited my show them many times. Our BBC exec. Paul Gibbs told me, “BBC is state run telly, get used to it. The pretense of impartiality is a farce.” No such problems with @RT_comhttps://t.co/mRAKkb1o4V
— Max Keiser [Jan/3] (@maxkeiser) December 21, 2018
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