The television network that has been called the mouthpiece of the Kremlin, RT, formerly known as Russia Today, will have a nearly 9 percent budget cut imposed next year, the Moscow Times reported Sunday. The channel is expected to receive approximately $307 million from the state budget for 2016.
The cut comes at a moment of continuing economic difficulty in Russia that includes the ruble’s value falling because of low global oil prices; Western sanctions imposed on Russia over the country’s annexation of the Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea in 2014; Russia's subsequent involvement in the conflict in eastern Ukraine that has taken the lives of over 8,000 people. With continued economic uncertainty, the budget cut could end up being even deeper.
RT, which has also been called a Russian propaganda network by its critics, broadcasts in English, Spanish and Arabic. The British media regulator Ofcom has investigated the network over breaching impartiality with programs that featured anti-Western views over its coverage of the conflict in Ukraine, the Guardian reported. One program was entitled “Truthseeker: Genocide in Ukraine” and another program looked at Ukraine’s refugees.
The network has been criticized and mocked for so-called experts it has interviewed for various stories.
— Hallowed Ween (@samknight1) March 3, 2014
In a 2013 interview with Margarita Simonyan, RT's editor-in-chief, Putin said he never intended for the channel to apologize for Russia’s political position both domestically and internationally.
“We never expected this to be a news agency or a channel which would defend the position of the Russian political line. …Certainly the channel is funded by the government, so it cannot help but reflect the Russian government’s official position on the events in our country and in the rest of the world one way or another,” Putin said at the time.
Approximately $1.3 billion was allotted for state media in the 2016 Russian budget. Rossiya Segodnya, another state news agency that reports in several languages, was given a budget increase of approximately $10.6 million for a total of $108 million in 2016.