“One billion clicks is just the beginning” said RT’s Sarah Firth about the channel’s recent milestone of becoming the first news provider to reach one billion views on YouTube. As far as I know, the breakthrough was ignored by the mainstream press in the UK, although the Independent’s media commentator Ian Burrell did devote a piece to the channel’s latest coup – veteran US broadcaster Larry King is to soon host its new political talk show. How desperate must he be to join RT, asked Burrell? Probably not that desperate given his legendary status following 25 years at CNN, but only too happy to be involved in a channel that has a 630 million global reach.
Like most of his colleagues, Burrell just doesn’t get it. After only eight years in business RT is going from strength to strength because more and more people like what it’s got to offer. This is not because they’re “dispossessed” “conspiracy theorists”, or “angry bloggers”, but because they want to hear proper news, not the parallel universe offered by the mainstream media outlets. This is one that failed to predict the 2008 financial crash but accepts the narrative of austerity, the one that failed to predict the Arab Spring but imagines the foreign-backed overthrow of Gaddafi and, it hopes, of Assad are a part of it. I could go on and on but I’d be here all day.
They are not only selective about what facts they use, an accusation that was levelled against RT without irony by the New Stateman’s Oliver Bullough last month, a lot of the time, these channels leap on anything that will save them the bother of reporting actual news.
On Saturday June 8, the lead item across the board was that Nelson Mandela was back in hospital again with a chest infection. I don’t meant to sound crass, but the man is 94, for heaven’s sake! The day before that, several minutes were devoted to 92-year-old Prince Phillip, who had been admitted to hospital for exploratory surgery, with lengthy analyses from grave-faced royal correspondents of what this might mean. Okay, it was the beginning of the weekend, but surely the rest of the world had not taken a break from reality.
RT is also accused of being a platform for “fringe voices”. Well yes, but this is only because such people are excluded from mainstream TV as a matter of course. When last did Noam Chomsky, one of the world’s leading academics, appear on the news as a commentator?
Time and time again, we are told RT is “Kremlin-backed” – yes, we know that, just like the BBC is Westminster-backed. Time and time again, its shortcomings are leapt upon in a way that those of its rival western channels are completely ignored. Mainstream journalists have become so embedded with the establishment that they can no longer see the wood for the trees. RT is far from perfect but compared to the biased drivel that passes for the news elsewhere, it is like a breath of fresh air.