RussiaToday is state financed

Russian state media in GermanyRT DE wants to develop online channels into television channels

At first glance, the news videos that RT DE produces for YouTube are almost indistinguishable from the content of other media providers. They are short clips of the day's headlines, branded with an inconspicuous green and black logo. "RT DE stands for diversity of opinion and critical journalism," says the channel description - but this journalism is not independent.

Although the editorial office is based in Berlin and reports in German, it is financed by the Russian state. In addition to news, RT DE produces documentaries, interviews, comments and columns - so far only for its own website and social media. That should change in December. Then RT DE wants to start its own live program.

Program director wants to double team size

Among other things, daily news programs, talk shows, business formats and entertainment are planned, says program director Alexander Korostelev. He has big plans.

"There are currently several dozen employees at RT DE. However, we plan to double our team by the time it starts broadcasting, so that viewers can get comprehensive information. If you want a complete picture of world affairs, then It makes sense to get information from different sources. Take a look at the Tagesschau, BBC, a documentary on Netflix, but also RT. "

(dpa / Iliya Pitalev / Sputnik) RT German - media dispute between Germany and Russia
Russia laments restrictions for its state broadcaster RT in Germany - and in return threatens with consequences for German media that are accredited in Moscow. Germany countered with its own criticism.

Medienanstalt: Check state remoteness

What the broadcaster is actually planning, however, raises questions. Because in order to be able to broadcast live - regardless of whether via antenna, satellite, cable or online - RT DE needs a broadcast license, and according to the State Media Treaty, this may not be granted to state-financed operators.

All German and European regulations will be adhered to, says program director Korostelev. The media authority Berlin-Brandenburg would be responsible, which has not yet received an application from RT. The station's distance from the state would then have to be checked carefully, the media authority announced at the request of Deutschlandfunk.

The news magazine "Spiegel" has just shown on the basis of internal RT mails that the central editorial office in Moscow has given specific guidelines on how events should be reported. One video is titled "Corona fear mongering - out of control", another is called "Merkel is freaking out? On the verge of madness".

(imago / Rob Engelaar / Hollandse Hoogte)

Historian: RT wants to divide society

The Eastern European historian Susanne Spahn has been observing RT DE for years. Its reporting paints a negative image of Germany, creates confusion and distrust, she says - all with the aim of dividing society. The now discontinued format "The Missing Part" even spread the thesis that the pandemic does not even exist.

"The disinformation is done very skilfully. So it's not all just false and fake news. It's an interesting mixture of true and realistic news, which is then cleverly combined with disinformation." That is an attack on democracy, says Spahn.

(imago / Zheng Mengyu) Disinformation campaigns in the Corona crisis - fight for the sovereignty of interpretation
The EU Commission warns of disinformation campaigns in the Corona crisis. Russia and China in particular could try to spread insecurity.

The Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution sees RT DE as a propaganda broadcaster

RT program director Korostelev prefers to compare his program with Deutsche Welle, the Federal Republic's foreign broadcaster: "According to the law, this medium should provide a forum for German and other perspectives. Germany wants to be heard abroad. If Russia does exactly the same, there is automatically talk of hybrid warfare, disinformation and other classics. These are double standards like out of a textbook. "

In fact, Deutsche Welle is also financed from tax revenues, but works according to journalistic criteria. In the case of RT, this is questionable: The Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution takes the view that RT DE aims to influence various groups and spread disinformation by means of propaganda.

"Don't be fooled about labeling fraud"

It would be particularly popular with certain sections of the population, says Susanne Spahn: "Especially with those who have just lost confidence in our traditional media - keyword 'lying press'. I keep hearing that RT Deutsch shows us the truth and we watch that. It would be important to ensure transparency so that these people don't get caught up in this fraudulent label. "

The observation that RT DE seeks proximity to corona deniers is not new. What is less well known is that the Russian government has long had other target groups in mind when it comes to its media offerings.

One example is the Redfish media platform, which publishes elaborate English-language documentaries. The articles about neo-Nazis in Germany, hunger in Africa or trans-sex workers in Mexico are more likely to appeal to a left-alternative audience. Only a small warning on YouTube indicates that this offer is also financed by the Russian state.

(picture alliance / Russian Look / Kremlin Pool) Germany and Russia - "Relations are in a terrible state"
Political scientist Susan Stewart said that Germany and Russia have hardly had any common interests for a number of years. Russia is also working on weakening Germany.