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Rogers suggests Canada ban all sanctioned Russian broadcasters, not just RT

OTTAWA — Communications giant Rogers has suggested that Canada ban all Kremlin-controlled Russian broadcasters, as well as channels owned by sanctioned Russian individuals.
Communications giant Rogers is suggesting that Canada ban all state-owned Russian broadcasters from the air, and not just RT.  Minister of Canadian Heritage Pablo Rodriguez rises during question period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Monday, Feb. 28, 2022. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

OTTAWA — Communications giant Rogers has suggested that Canada ban all Kremlin-controlled Russian broadcasters, as well as channels owned by sanctioned Russian individuals. 

The company's recommendation would mean banning not only state-owned broadcaster RT from Canada's airwaves but others including Channel One Russia and RTR Planeta.

Rogers made its suggestion in a formal submission to the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission, which is carrying out a speedy inquiry into whether RT should be banned from Canada's airwaves.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau asked the CRTC to review whether the broadcaster should be banned after Russia invaded Ukraine and Canada imposed a raft of sanctions on President Vladimir Putin's regime. 

RT, formerly Russia Today, is a state-funded channel that broadcasts in several languages to international audiences. It has faced a barrage of criticism worldwide for spewing out Kremlin-controlled propaganda about the invasion of Ukraine.

Rogers, Bell, Shaw and other Canadian broadcasters have already removed RT from their lineups, with Rogers replacing the channel with the image of a flying Ukrainian flag. 

Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez called on the CRTC to complete its assessment within two weeks. In a tweet last month he applauded Telus for joining other Canadian broadcasters in "giving RT the boot" from its lineup of channels. 

Most public submissions to the CRTC consultation, which finished Tuesday, favour banning RT from Canada, with many condemning it as a propaganda vehicle for Putin.

But some people told the CRTC that Canadians should be able to subscribe to the Russian channel to get a different viewpoint. 

Tony Nascimento from Winnipeg, who is retired, said in an interview he thought banning RT amounted to "censorship."

He watches RT fairly regularly and said they have some good programs which offer a different viewpoint, including on the United States.

"I find it something refreshing, something a lot of times you won’t hear on other channels on TV," he said.

"You can see how they’re pro-Russian. But a person with normal intelligence can see what they’re doing there, and see the propaganda, and they can bypass that," he said. 

Since Russia invaded Ukraine, countries around the world, including the United States and United Kingdom, have taken action to remove RT from the airwaves.  

Several people who made submissions to the CRTC on RT wanted a more widespread ban on Russian broadcasters as well as a crackdown on social media. 

One submission by Katia Keefer, an Ontario university professor, said it is "entirely inappropriate" for Russian state-owned or controlled media to broadcast in Canada. 

"I strongly support the removal of RT and all other Russian state media from Canadian airwaves and the internet in Canada."

She also called on the government to block all the websites and social media accounts of the Russian state media.

Rogers suggested that the ban cover other Russian state-controlled broadcasters and outlets owned by Russians on a list of people subject to sanctions. 

These include Channel One, a popular state-controlled Russian broadcaster, and RTR Planeta, the international service of VGTRK, a state-owned Russian language broadcaster.

According to the BBC, Channel One this week suggested that reports of Ukrainian forces destroying Russian military hardware were fake and designed to mislead inexperienced Russian viewers. 

Rogers said in its submission that it "would be appropriate for the commission to also consider removing … any programming service that is either owned or controlled by a state that is subject to Canadian sanctions or by any specific individual or entity identified in Schedule 1 to the Special Economic Measures (Russia) Regulations."

The deadline for the public to give views to the CRTC on whether to ban RT was on Tuesday. The regulator is expected to make its decision within the next two weeks. 

The CRTC said in a statement that public participation is a key element of its decision-making process."

"The CRTC will review all interventions received and weigh them accordingly," the statement said. 

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 9, 2022.


This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, which is funding a project by Carleton University's School of Journalism and The Canadian Press.

Marie Woolf and Tobin Ng, The Canadian Press

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