BASEES Annual Conference 2022

RT UK and its coverage of the 2019 British general elections: ambitious goals and modest results

Fri8  Apr02:00pm(20 mins)


Vitaly Kazakov


The British Intelligence and Security Committee 2020 ‘Russia Report’ has accused RT UK of being a part of a wider Russian campaign aiming to influence democratic processes in Britain. This presents a stereotypical view on the dangers Kremlin-sponsored informational actors pose for social cohesion and democratic institutions in the West. A case study of the mediation of a major political event by the Russian channel RT in the UK may help to assess the validity of such concerns. Relying on the live media ethnography method, I investigate a set of outputs produced by RT UK across its traditional and new media platforms in the period immediately preceding the 2019 UK General Election. The goal of my paper is to identify and understand the key messages, and the modes of informing and connecting to the audience exhibited in RT’s coverage of these elections. I also assess whether RT UK uniformly and noticeably agitate its viewers to favour some candidates whilst discrediting others across its media channels and different outputs. Finally, I trace what kind of technologies, formats, and themes were used in the coverage and how impactful were RT’s approaches. Ultimately, I analyse the extent to which RT UK’s work may have impacted the election outcomes and suggest that the perceived dangers may have been overestimated. In the process, I discuss the interrelationship between RT UK and its sister networks, the British media regulators, political establishment, and audiences.