Employees of RT work in its international studio in Moscow, Russia. (Photo: Misha Friedman/Getty Images)
- Russia’s state-sponsored TV channel Russia Today (RT), is back on South African television.
- The channel went dark on DStv following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
- China’s StarTimes Media, operating as StarSat in South Africa, confirmed that it has acquired Russia Today and is now showing it on StarSat channel 260.
Russia’s state-sponsored TV channel Russia Today (RT) is back on South African television after China’s StarTimes picked up the channel despite international sanctions. The channel has been widely criticized for its one-sided coverage of Russia’s war with Ukraine.
Russia Today, which was carried on MultiChoice’s DStv satellite pay-TV service, went dark on 2 Marchshortly after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, resulting in international sanctions and trade restrictions imposed against Russia.
Trade sanctions imposed by the European Union (EU) saw Russia Today’s satellite uplinking – a channel feed connection making use of European companies for transponder uplinking – cut off when Google and other companies blocked the channel’s YouTube streaming.
China’s StarTimes Media, operating as StarSat in South Africa, confirmed to Channel24 that it has acquired Russia Today and is now showing it on StarSat channel 260.
StarTimes said it’s uplinking the Russia Today channel feed through SES SA’s SES-5 satellite transponder on which StarTimes/StarSat is leasing space for South and Southern Africa. Similar to Intelsat, which has its corporate headquarters in Luxembourg, SES SA is a satellite and terrestrial telecommunications network provider also based in Luxembourg in Europe.
StarSat told Channel24, in response to a media query, it got TV channel application permission from South Africa’s broadcasting regulator, the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA), to add Russia Today.
“We have received ICASA’s approval on 10 May; therefore, we launched this channel from 11 May 2022, and it’s available in our Super package from R109 per month on channel 260.”
A StarSat spokesperson said, “StarSat as a platform takes pride in sourcing relevant and current content to enhance our packages; thus, we regard RT Global as a 24-hour English-language news channel that focuses on all major economic, political and social issues of our time. RT is broadcast on the StarTimes platform in South Africa and the rest of Africa.”
On how StarSat is able to show Russia Today, although it was removed from transponder uplinking due to EU sanctions, StarSat said, “After we reached a carriage agreement with RT, they deliver the feed to our uplinking station straightly, then we uplink to SES -5 and broadcast to our customers.”
In the United Kingdom, where Russia Today was removed in March, the British broadcasting regulator Ofcom revoked RT’s license and said the channel is unable to comply with the impartiality rules of the UK’s Broadcasting Code.
After 29 investigations, Ofcom said, “RT is not fit and proper to hold a license in the UK”.
Channel24 reached out for comment from SES. SA and ICASA. By the time of publishing this article, no comment was received. This article will be updated if any feedback is received.