The Kremlin’s news network has gained a global following with a quixotic blend of news and conspiracy.
Shaun Walker - 20 September 2010
The 11 September attacks in New York were an inside job; the South Korean warship torpedoed in March was not sunk by North Korea, but probably by Japan or the US; and the world is run by the secretive Bilderberg Group, who pursue a “New World Order”. Not the lonely ravings of a conspiracy-minded blogger, but all opinions aired recently on a satellite channel beamed into millions of American homes.
With its slick graphics, smiling young news-anchors, and round-the-clock coverage, RT is like any other news channel. But there is one major difference, aside from the content: RT, which stands for Russia Today, is paid for by the Kremlin. The channel launched in 2005, broadcasting news mainly about Russia on various satellite packages around the world.
You might remember a provocative ad campaign across London last year, with posters showing pictures of Barack Obama and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and asking, “Who poses the bigger nuclear threat?”
In the US, ads were run on screens inside New York taxis, and the channel even broadcast live on big screens in Times Square. This year, RT went even further in its attempts to infiltrate the US, when a new arm of the channel, RT America, began broadcasting from Washington DC several hours a day, exclusively for a US audience. The focus is not Russia, but America itself, and the radical opinions of some of its guests have been raising eyebrows.
Last month, the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), a well-respected US organisation that tracks hate groups and extremists in the United States, published a report about Russia Today. The group did not label the channel itself extremist, but said it gives undue airtime to conspiracy theorists and extremists. “Its slickly packaged stories suggest that a legitimate debate is under way in the United States about who perpetrated the 11 September terrorist attacks, for instance, and about President Obama’s eligibility for high office.”