CRTC bans Russian state-controlled TV channels RT, RT France from Canadian airwaves

A placard protesting Russian broadcaster RT is displayed at a rally in Toronto against Russia's invasion of Ukraine last month. (Chris Helgren/Reuters - image credit)
A placard protesting Russian broadcaster RT is displayed at a rally in Toronto against Russia's invasion of Ukraine last month. (Chris Helgren/Reuters - image credit)

Canada's telecommunications regulator has removed the state-controlled Russian television network RT from Canadian airwaves.

The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) announced Wednesday afternoon that it was removing RT and RT France from the list of non-Canadian programming services and stations authorized for distribution in Canada.

The decision means broadcasters in Canada are no longer legally permitted to carry the channel.

The multilingual 24-hour news channel launched in 2005, when it was known as Russia Today, and now appears in more than 100 countries, according to its website.

Funded by the Russian government, the channel has long been described by critics as a propaganda outlet for the Kremlin.

"RT's programming is not consistent with the standards against which Canadian services are measured nor the policy objectives set out in the Broadcasting Act," the CRTC said in its decision.

WATCH | Canada bans Russian state-controlled RT:

"The CRTC is also concerned with programming from a foreign country that seeks to undermine the sovereignty of another country, demean Canadians of a particular ethnic background and undermine democratic institutions within Canada."

The decision is not a surprise. On March 3, the CRTC published a "preliminary view" that suggested it was inclined to ban the channel.

"The Commission is of the preliminary view that RT's programming may not be consistent with the Commissions's broadcasting regulations, in particular, the abuse comment provisions such as those set out in Section 5 of the Television Broadcasting Regulations 1987," the CRTC said on its website.

Under Section 5, abuse is defined as words or images that "expose an individual or a group or class of individuals to hatred or contempt on the basis of race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, sex, sexual orientation, age or mental or physical disability."

Broadcasters pull RT's plug

The CRTC said in its decision Wednesday that non-Canadian news services should be held to the same standards as Canadian news outlets.

"Freedom of speech and a range of perspectives are a necessary part of our democracy. However, it is a privilege and not a right to be broadcast in Canada," said CRTC CEO Ian Scott in a statement.

Jason Woycheshyn, president of the Ukrainian Canadian Bar Association, was one of the individuals who made a submission to the CRTC. He asked the CRTC to ban RT, arguing that there is "no need [for] or interest" in Russian propaganda in Canada.

"That's the basis upon which we are requesting that the CRTC ban all access, whether it be on the airwaves, television, radio or internet, to Russia Today or any other state-sponsored propaganda media Russia is currently promoting," he said.

Mikhail Klimentyev/Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo/Associated Press
Mikhail Klimentyev/Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo/Associated Press

On Feb. 27, Rogers, Bell and Shaw announced that they would no longer carry RT.

"Customers who subscribe to RT as a pick and pay service will receive a credit in the next billing cycle," Shaw said in a tweet at the time.

The following day, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said that while broadcasters had started removing RT from their lineups, he would ask the CRTC to review the broadcaster's licence to ensure that any decision to ban the channel goes through an arm's-length process.

"There is a significant amount of disinformation circulating from Russia, including on social media, and we all need to keep calling it out," Trudeau said at the time.

The day after Trudeau's announcement, Regina-based Access Communications announced that it too was removing RT from its AccessNexTV Stream lineup.