The former head of the BBC News World Service is ringing an alarm bell about Putin’s pet propaganda network, Russia Today. The Guardian reports:
As the World Service has pared back, Russia Today has expanded spectacularly. The network, which broadcasts a pro-Kremlin interpretation of world events in English, Spanish, Arabic and Russian, launched a UK-focused channel based in Millbank, central London, recently and plans to launch German and French channels next year.Putin will next year increase its global budget by 40% to 15.38bn roubles (£183m), up from 11.87bn roubles this year. The channel boasts of a worldwide reach of 700 million – while never disclosing the actual size of its audience – after expanding its Spanish service across South America.At the same time, state funding has been ramped up for Rossiya Segodnya, a global news agency built on the remains of the liquidated RIA Novosti. Earlier this month Rossiya Segodnya launched Sputnik, an English-language online and radio service to replace Voice of Russia. Its TV news anchor is Dmitry Kiselev, described as Russia’s chief propagandist with a record of attacking homosexuals, who said the project was aimed at a global audience “tired of aggressive propaganda promoting a unipolar world and who want a different perspective”.John Whittingdale, chair of the Commons culture, media and sport select committee, said: “We are being outgunned massively by the Russians and Chinese and that’s something I’ve raised with the BBC. It is frightening the extent to which we are losing the information war.”
The Putin regime’s bread and butter has been the use of propaganda to distort or outright fabricate narratives designed to confuse and disorient. That doesn’t just mean Russians; the Kremlin spends a lot of money to spread propaganda not only at home but also in West, and Western media sources often parrot the distorted Russian line.