Wednesday, March 2, 2022

BREAKING. The Russia Today TV channel abruptly disappears on Wednesday evening from MultiChoice's DStv, and TelkomONE in South Africa.

by Thinus Ferreira

Russia's propaganda TV channel Russia Today (DStv 407) known as RT, late on Wednesday abruptly disappeared from the channel line-up of MultiChoice's DStv as well as Telkom's TelkomONE video streaming service.

DStv subscribers on Wednesday evening got a black screen on DStv channel 407 with the on-screen notification "This channel is closed".

On Wednesday night it wasn't immediately clear whether MultiChoice and Telkom decided to remove RT, similar to how pay-TV operators and streaming services in multiple other countries from America to Australia decided to do since this past weekend, or whether Russia Today decided to remove its signal, or whether other technical problems interrupted the RT channel feed.

MultiChoice and Telkom were asked for comment on Wednesday evening.

On Wednesday night MultiChoice said that "As of today, 2 March 2021, Russia Today (Channel 407) shall not be carried on the DStv platform until further notice. Sanctions imposed on Russia have led to the global distributor of the channel ceasing to provide the broadcast feed to all suppliers, including MultiChoice."

On Monday, MultiChoice in response to media queries said that "We have no editorial control over third-party channels". 

SA’s broadcasting regulator demands answers
South Africa's broadcasting regulator, the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) in a statement to TVwithThinus on Wednesday night, said that "ICASA wants to put it on record that the broadcast of RT on the DStv platform is and continues to be a commercial agreement between the subscription TV broadcaster, MultiChoice and RT".

"The authority's role in the broadcasting of RT has been solely limited to channel authorisation as submitted by the licensee  – in this case, MultiChoice – and approved by ICASA prior to the channel being introduced."

ICASA said that this is a regulatory requirement fulfilled by the licensee before introducing any new channel for consumption by the South African public.

"Our licensing and compliance division has not received any notification by MultiChoice confirming the discontinuation of the channel on its DStv platform,” ICASA chairperson Dr Keabetswe Modimoeng said.

According to Dr Keabetswe Modimoeng "it is in the public interest to know the reasons for this discontinuation since the authorisation was approved by the authority".

"Given the underlying principle of the South African broadcasting system for promoting plurality of views, it is only prudent for ICASA to enquire with DStv on the rationale for the discontinuation of the RT channel."

Dr Keabetswe Modimoeng said that ICASA continues to monitor the developments regarding this matter.

Petition against and global RT offboarding
The Kremlin-backed TV channel came under fire globally especially since last week, following Russia's invasion and unprovoked war with Ukraine.

In South Africa, the country's Broadcasting Complaints Commission of South Africa (BCCSA) confirmed that it has been receiving complaints from DStv subscribers asking why MultiChoice has not removed RT.

A DStv subscriber Jared Myroff also started an online petition on, directed to MultiChoice CEO Calvo Mawela and the pay-TV operator's chairperson Imtiaz Patel, imploring MultiChoice to remove RT from DStv.

The petition says that RT "is a tool of the greater Russia propaganda machine" and that is "currently using its air time to spread misinformation on the invasion that Russia has undertaken on Ukraine".

"As a DStv customer, part of your fees goes towards DStv to paying for this channel to have air time in our country and poison the minds of our citizens."

"Essentially our MultiChoice subscriptions help fund Russia and Putin's propaganda machine. The goal of this petition is to gain the attention of the top management of MultiChoice and to remove the Russia Today "news" channel from our screens," the petition states.  

Australia's biggest pay-TV operator Foxtel also removed RT on Sunday as a linear TV channel and from its streaming service. 

"In view of concern about the situation in Ukraine, the Russia Today channel is currently unavailable on Foxtel and Flash," Foxtel said in a statement.

Canada's two biggest pay-TV services, Rogers Communications and Bell Canada both announced on Monday that they're dropping RT completely.

America's DirectTV on Monday announced that it's removing RT "and will no longer offer their programming effective immediately".

The 1+1 Media Group, a Ukrainian media conglomerate, on Monday said they wrote to media companies worldwide, asking them to stop transmitting Russia's propaganda-filled TV channels like RT.

"More than 20 local providers from Poland, Australia, Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Canada, Estonia, Lithuania, Latvia, Bulgaria, Germany, as well as representatives of international corporations have already responded to the request," 1+1 Media Group said in a press release on Monday.
"As of 26 February they have started the turning off of the propagandistic TV channels on their satellites, cable networks and across other platforms and sources."

YouTube also blocked RT from generating any advertising revenue from any of its content placed on Google’s video streaming service.

"In light of extraordinary circumstances in Ukraine, we're taking a number of actions,” Michael Aciman, global communications and public affairs manager at Google, said in a statement. 

"We're pausing a number of channels' ability to monetize on YouTube, including several Russian channels affiliated with recent sanctions. We will be significantly limiting recommendations to these channels. And in response to a government request, we've restricted access to RT and a number of other channels in Ukraine."

In the United Kingdom where RT still remains on the air, that country's broadcasting regulator, Ofcom, on Monday announced in a statement that it had " opened 15 new investigations into the due impartiality of news programs on the RT news channel."

"We have observed a significant increase in the number of programs on the RT service that warrant investigation under our Broadcasting Code," Ofcom said.

On Wednesday Ofcom announced that it has added another 12 investigations into RT, bringing the total number to 27.

"We are very concerned by the volume of programmes on RT that are raising potential issues under the Broadcasting Code, and as we progress our investigations we are considering whether RT should retain a U.K. license," Ofcom said in a statement late on Wednesday.