German regulator says Russian state media broadcasts without license

German regulators have launched a lawsuit against state-controlled Russian media RT for broadcasting in the country without a valid license.

RT DE, the German-language channel of broadcaster RT, suddenly started broadcasting satellite broadcasts in Germany on December 16 using a questionable Serbian license, media regulator MABB for Berlin and surrounding state said on December 17. of Brandenburg.

Germany does not grant broadcasting licenses to foreign public media, although RT DE is allowed to have an office in Berlin.

RT – formerly Russia Today, which has been repeatedly criticized in the West as a source of Kremlin propaganda – has tried to expand its German-language TV channel for a while, but has no license to broadcast around the country using land or satellite signals.

RT DE still has articles and an online streaming service on its website which are accessible in Germany.

In August, neighboring Luxembourg refused to grant a license to RT DE to broadcast in Germany because its operations are based in Berlin.

However, RT DE’s parent organization TV Novosti was granted a license in Serbia after its failed attempt in Luxembourg. This only became known on December 16, when RT DE started broadcasting in Germany.

“For this program, a broadcast license has neither been requested nor granted by MABB,” the regulator said in a statement to RFE / RL. She added that a formal procedure had been launched and that RT DE now had until the end of the year to respond.

Such proceedings could potentially lead to the channel being banned or fined up to 500,000 euros ($ 563,700).

RT DE responded on its site with an article titled European licensing law: a refresher course for inexperienced regulators. In the article, RT DE claims that it has obtained a license for cable and satellite transmissions in Serbia, which, under the European Convention on Transfrontier Television, allows it to broadcast in Germany.

However, MABB has stated that since RT DE Productions GmbH is based in Berlin, it falls under German jurisdiction.

Tobias Schmid, a group representative of the Association of European Regulators of EU Audiovisual Media Services, says RT DE’s legal argument is questionable.

“According to our assessment, the registered company is still the Berlin-based company and therefore is subject to German jurisdiction, so if the license in Germany is to be granted, the application must also be made here,” he told German television. ZAPP.

The license was granted by the Serbian Electronic Media Regulatory Body (REM).

Olivera Zekic, director of REM, told Serbian media on December 17 that the license was issued on the basis of the European Convention on Transfrontier Television.

However, REM board member Judita Popovic told RFE / RL that Serbia allows Russian state media to circumvent German regulations.

Popovic said she was the only REM member to vote against the decision to issue the license. She added that TV Novosti has submitted a license application in which it is stated that the program will be broadcast from Russia in German.

“In this way, Serbia is reduced to becoming a transmission signal for a wider area, via satellite,” Popovic said, noting that the television programs were not intended for viewers in Serbia, but for German-speaking countries.

With report from the Balkan service of RFE / RL and NDR

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