Kremlin-funded news channel launches new version for Germany. But on its launch day, few in its target audience was able to receive its broadcasts.
RT DE follows in the footsteps of other localised versions of the original Russia Today news channel. Hitting the airwaves this week, there was one snag: it’s not available on any of the main satellites used by German households. And YouTube removed its live stream, just five hours after launching.
The channel launched on the Russian Express AM8 satellite this week, swiftly followed by Eutelsat 9°E and Eutelsat 16°E. None of the three satellites is routinely used by German satellite audiences. In the same way most UK satellite viewers receive from Astra at 28.2 °E and nowhere else, most Germans receive satellite from Astra 19.2°E only. After Astra, Eutelsat Hot Bird at 13°E is the second satellite position used by some audiences, although its importance to Germany has dwindled over the past decade following the departure of the main German free-to-air channels.
Eutelsat 9°E is most likely to help reach its audience – the satellite position is used for various free and pay TV feeds for German cable operators, as well as a source of Turkish TV for Germany’s Turkish community. However, at the present time, major cable operators have opted not to include the channel.
RT DE says it is working on launching on new platforms, and content is also available through its app. Its live stream continues on its own website.
RT DE has faced a long struggle to obtain a broadcasting licence in Europe. An application for a broadcast licence in Luxembourg was rejected – the authorities there considered the channel needed to be licensed in Germany. For political reasons, a licence in Germany was not an option. RT DE is now transmitting on the basis of a broadcast licence obtained in Serbia.
There is great hostility towards the Russian news channel in Germany. It is viewed as a potent source of disinformation, giving undue attention to conspiracy theorists. However, RT claims to give voices to those silenced by other news outlets. It’s a claim that is frequently repeated by challenger news outlets, including Britain’s own GB News. Critics claim the voices that are heard are mostly only the ones who seek to divide and polarise public opinion.