RT challenges domination of Western media

Source:Global Times Published: 2018/10/21 20:53:39

Editor's Note:

As the first Russian 24/7 English-language news channel launched in 2005 to highlight the Russian view on global events, RT has a global audience and is no less popular than mainstream Western media outlets. How did RT achieve this? What are the challenges in front of RT? Margarita Simonyan (Simonyan), RT editor-in-chief, answered questions from Global Times (GT) reporter Sun Xiaobo about these issues.

Margarita Simonyan

GT: You were a brilliant reporter who covered wars. How do you feel about turning into the editor-in-chief of such an influential media outlet?

Simonyan: Thank you. The two jobs are very different; I never planned or wanted to be the manager of a giant media organization, and I still think of myself first and foremost as a journalist. That said, heading up a global network like RT comes with its own exciting challenges and opportunities, and I'm incredibly proud of the success RT has achieved over the last 13 years.

GT: RT was set up to confront Western media's domination in the world. What makes RT succeed in overthrowing such domination? When RT reports take on a completely different view from those on Western media, how do you convince Western audience that your reports are more objective?

Simonyan: For decades, the entire global news agenda was set by a handful of news outlets from a couple of countries, and a limited range of voices from the same countries, which did not reflect the world's diversity or complexity. What RT understood very early on, and what our audiences understand is that almost every issue is complex, every story has multiple sides to it, and every day there are hundreds of important stories that go untold - and there is a real demand for these stories and perspectives. Our goal is to complete the picture of current events, to go beyond the narrow perspective offered by mainstream Western media, which most of the world stopped believing a long time ago anyway. That's why audiences in the West and all other parts of the world watch and read RT.

GT: What's the size of RT's global audience? How's RT's performance in terms of social networks?

Simonyan: As of late 2017, RT had a weekly TV audience of 100 million viewers in 47 countries, according to a study by Ipsos, a leading research firm. This means that our viewership has grown by more than a third in the last two years - precisely during the same period as RT has increasingly come under attack and as the measures to restrict our reach escalated in a number of countries. In the digital sphere, our platforms outperform the competition around the world. On YouTube, RT as a whole is the No.1 TV news network with more than 7 billion views - far ahead of the BBC and CNN news channels. Online, RT Arabic website has the largest audience of all Arabic TV news channels, including Al Jazeera and Al Arabiya. RT Spanish website likewise is ahead of Spanish-language websites of its TV peers.

GT: RT has been disliked by Western media outlets. Its bank accounts in the UK were frozen in 2016. What are the challenges for RT as it continues expanding its international presence and localization?

Simonyan: The challenges are aplenty. The network was forced to register as a foreign agent in the US; UK politicians called for the revocation of its license and there was restricted access to social networks and search engines refusing us the same access as our peers enjoy. What is most disappointing is that all these obstacles before RT's journalistic work are being put up by the same countries that, for so long, have lectured the world about the sanctity of free speech and free press.

GT: How will RT react if news of RT and Sputnik is blocked on search engines by some Western countries?

Simonyan: Eric Schmidt, the former executive chairman of Google's parent company Alphabet, already talked about de-ranking Sputnik and RT news articles on Google's search platform, despite the fact that Google has publicly stated that they "found no evidence of manipulation of our platform or policy violations" by RT. It's obvious that this pushback against RT is simply because we are popular: The Atlantic Council, the Washington Post, Vice News and others have complained that when searching for news about the White Helmets or Syria or the Skripal case, RT dominates the top results. That's just RT journalists being good at their jobs, and telling the people facts that the mainstream media ignores.

Hopefully, other media outlets will recognize the dangers of de-facto censorship measures currently explored by these near-monopolies, dictating to their users which news they should or shouldn't be allowed to see. If today RT and Sputnik are the targets, tomorrow it can be anyone else. In the meantime we will continue to make our content available to everyone, through any means available to us.

GT: Is the label of propaganda, as Western officials and media often put on RT, troubling you and your organization?

Simonyan: RT has always been absolutely transparent about both its funding and organization. We are an autonomous, non-profit, publicly financed news organization that is editorially independent. This is no different than literally hundreds of news media outlets publicly financed in Europe - including the BBC, DW and France24 - and other parts of the world, including the US, with its outlets such as Voice of America. Yet RT is the only one attacked or tagged with the label of "propaganda", - but only by the establishment media and officials. Their monopoly on information had been unchallenged for decades but they have since lost the trust of the public, and now have to contend with more and more people turning to alternative voices like RT.

GT: How is RT's cooperation with foreign media, especially from Western countries, going? Since Western nations have stepped up efforts to develop their Russian-language programs, is it a concern for you?

Simonyan: I believe that a diversity of voices, whether they are in Russian or another language, is a good thing, as long as we are all treated equal. And RT remains open to dialogue and collaboration across the board. At the end of the day, the quality and integrity of RT's work speaks for itself: That is why legendary journalist Larry King as well as globally renowned public figures such as former first minister of Scotland Alex Salmond and former president of Ecuador Rafael Correa choose to have programs on RT. RT has recently received its sixth Emmy nomination for our coverage of the humanitarian crisis in Mosul, Iraq, and over the years has collected hundreds of international media awards. Our journalists regularly appear on other channels, including the BBC and Al Jazeera, to give their views and analysis on current events, and are invited to speak at such premier international events as the Davos World Economic Forum, News Xchange, Global Editors Network, Westminster Media Forum and the UN World Press Freedom Day, among others. Only by continuing exchange of ideas despite our differences can we have any hope of mutual understanding.

Posted in: VIEWPOINT

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