Pressure builds on Eutelsat over carriage of Russian services

Pressure is building on Paris-based satellite operator Eutelsat from multiple directions over its continued carriage of Russian TV services while the war in Ukraine rages on.

Freedom of the press advocacy group Reporters Sans Frontières has called on France’s Conseil d’État to overturn a decision by media regulator Arcom not to intervene to stop Eutelsat distributing three Russian channels accused of spreading false Russian propaganda.

Reporters Sans Frontières had earlier taken the case to Arcom, calling on it to stop Eutelsat from distributing channels Rossiya 1, Perviy Kanal and NTV in Russia, Ukraine and the Baltic countries, citing the channels’ inciting of violence and hate against the Ukrainian people and incitement of genocide.

Eutelsat distributes the three channels as part of its agreements with pay TV services Tricolor and NTV+. These services, distributed not only in Russia but in the parts of Ukraine currently occupied by Russian forces, together have around 15 million subscribers.

In September Arcom said it would not rule on the issue, citing the “very limited” number of EU citizens having access to the named channels. Reporters Sans Frontières has now take the case to the Conseil d’État, citing the fact that the services are accessible in the Baltic States, which are inside the EU.

Reporters Sans Frontières’ move comes as Ukraine’s own media regulator, the National Council, sent a letter to Eutelsat CEO Eva Bernecke calling on the company to “stop circumventing EU Sanctions regarding the ban on the distribution of Russian propaganda channels”.

The letter, which was handed to Bernecke personally by the Ukrainian ambassador to France as Eutelsat’s intergovernmental consultative committee met in Paris, highlighted what it described as the danger posed by Russian media.

“Russian TV channels have been distorting reality for decades, they have created a whole generation of citizens imbued with ideas of hatred for European values and belief in their own civilizational role in preserving and renewing the values of Soviet ideology,” it said.

The regulator said that France, as a signatory to the convention on the prevention of genocide, had an obligation to take action, citing Article III of the convention, which defines the crime of direct and public incitement to commit genocide, whether or not it is directly related to the act of genocide.

Arcom had ordered Eutelsat to cease broadcasting Russian international channel NTV Mir, following an EU ruling in March that the Russian propaganda channel RT should be taken off air. RT continues to be available as part of the Tricolor service, according to the Ukrainian regulator.

The National Council said that it would impose sanctions on Eutelsat if it did not take action and would initiate the blocking of its activities on Ukrainian territory.

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