Eutelsat ordered to stop broadcasting three Russian channels

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TAMPA, Fla. — France’s TV regulator ordered Paris-based satellite operator Eutelsat to stop broadcasting three Russian propaganda channels, reversing an earlier decision not to interfere.  

French media regulator Arcom said Dec. 14 it gave Eutelsat a week to stop broadcasting Rossiya 1, Perviy Kanal, and NTV via its satellites.

Russia-based service providers NTV Plus and Trikolor currently use Eutelsat satellite capacity to broadcast these Russian-language channels to the west of the country. 

It is unclear how removing the channels from Eutelsat transponders will reduce their reach because NTV Plus and Trikolor also use satellite capacity that is provided from outside the European Union.

In a news release, Arcom said the television stations’ coverage of Russia’s war in Ukraine “include repeated incitement to hatred and violence and numerous shortcomings to the honesty of the information.”

Eutelsat said in a brief statement that “it will no longer be involved in the broadcasting of the three sanctioned channels within the prescribed time-frame.”

Arcom’s decision comes a week after France’s top administrative court, prompted by a request from the Paris-based Reporters Without Borders advocacy group, ordered Arcom to review an initial decision to permit Eutelsat to continue carrying the stations.

Arcom said it has the power to block the channels after an investigation found they “were broadcast not only in Russia, but also in the Ukrainian territories annexed by Russia.”

The regulator said: “Since, unlike Russia, Ukraine has signed and ratified the European Convention on Transfrontier Television, as has France, Arcom therefore has a legal basis to demand that Eutelsat cease broadcast of these channels.”

Eutelsat has been under mounting pressure to remove pro-Kremlin broadcasts from campaign groups seeking to curb Russian propaganda, which clashes with the company’s strict policy of editorial neutrality.

For some channels, such as Iranian state-owned news network Press TV, Eutelsat’s efforts to drop sanctioned broadcasts are also complicated by its reliance on distributors and partners to remove them.

Eutelsat declined to comment further on Arcom’s decision.

In its latest annual financial report, Eutelsat said 6.7% of its roughly $1.3 billion in revenues for the year to the end of June were exposed to Russian companies.

These Russian customers are mainly served by capacity Eutelsat leases on four satellites owned by Russian operator RSCC.