Eutelsat is facing growing criticism for distributing Russian TV channels offered by the DTH platforms NTV+ and Tricolor.
Earlier this week, Reporters Without Frontiers (RSF) issued a statement in which it accused the company, which is 20% owned by the France’s Public Investment Bank (BPI), of “acting as an intermediary of the Russian propaganda apparatus”. It went on to cite three channels – Rossiya 1, Channel One and NTV – as the “spearheads” of this propaganda because they are the main source of news and information for 25-30% of the Russian population.
RSF has effectively joined forces with the Denis Diderot Committee, which has been critical of Eutelsat’s position since the early days of the war in Ukraine. Besides pointing out that continuing to distribute Russian TV channels is highly profitable for the satellite operator – the country is its second biggest client, contributing 6.3%, or €76 million, of its turnover in 2020-21 – they also say that it is against the Eutelsat Convention. Signed in 2002, its principles include “respect for freedom of expression and information, respect for human dignity, media pluralism and fair reporting, and a ban on incitement to violence or racial hatred in the broadcast media”.
RSF and the Denis Diderot Committee in addition make the point that freed up space on Eutelsat’s satellites could be assigned to international media that has been banned in Russia, as well as independent Russian media. The latter would of course include the now exiled TV Rain, formerly known as Dozhd TV, which a few days ago went back on air, employing studios in Latvia, the Netherlands, Georgia and France.
Eutelsat continues to argue that it maintains a position of “complete neutrality” in the case of content and that by abandoning this it would be “subjected to even more pressure from all sides without any grounds to resist, to the detriment of media freedom and pluralism”. It also says that it applies sanctions when they are issued by national regulators.
However, with the matter now being discussed by senior politicians, one can’t help feeling that it will eventually have to change its stance on the Russian TV channels it currently distributes.