RT, Russia's 24/7 global news network, is once again being attacked by its western detractors as being the mere propaganda tool of Vladimir Putin - last seen, according to Hillary Clinton, busily siphoning hacked Democratic Party emails to Wikileaks. But RT's critics have little to say about the tightening corporate stranglehold over the western media.
AMIDST THE HYSTERIA being whipped up by western governments - and Hillary Clinton - against Vladimir Putin, Russia's 24/7 global news channel also finds itself, once again, in the firing line.
RT, formerly Russia Today, which broadcasts in New Zealand on Sky 92, is funded by the Russian government in the same way that the British Government funds the BBC and its global news channel, BBC World.
But while the BBC largely escapes criticism that it serves the interests of the British government, that's not how RT is treated. The news channel, which boasts a global audience of some 700 million, is, its critics would have you believe, merely the docile propagandist of the domestic and foreign policy interests of Vladimir Putin.
In 2014 The Spectator, the conservative British news magazine, declared that RT was 'Putin's weapon of mass deception'. Italleged that RT liked to promote Russian interests by masquerading as 'a challenger' to increasingly unpopular and out-of-touch western governments.
This week The Spectator has returned to this theme with its cover story, 'Putin versus the Rest of the World'. However, in a more conciliatory alternative article, 'Stop This Stupid Sabre-Rattling Against Russia',assistant editor Rod Little writes:
"And yet while Russia Today is indeed reliably compliant on Putin’s excesses, its news reports — often mirroring good old UK tabloid newspaper hackery — sometimes reveal a truth which would have been otherwise hidden. The problem, then, is not that they are spreading misinformation, but that Russia Today is spreading truthful information which the UK government finds extremely unhelpful. Is it non-biased and non-partisan, does it always give balance and right of reply? No, no and thrice no. Does the BBC?"
Not quite so conciliatory has been the American news website Politico which recently attacked an RT America show, The News with Ed Schultz, describing it as featuring "Putin-friendly discussions about the failings of U.S. policy in the Middle East, America’s “bloated” defence budget and the futility of NATO strategy."
It has even alleged, without any convincing evidence , that RT is backing Donald Trump against Hillary Clinton: "A network that up until now has found little to celebrate about America has finally settled on a candidate it can believe in. Vladimir Putin’s TV channel isn’t just covering the 2016 campaign: Increasingly, it’s choosing sides."
Viewers of such RT shows as The Big Picture with Thom Hartmann, The Keiser Report and Watching The Hawks will be surprised to learn that RT is blatantly promoting Trump. These shows, and others, regularly criticise Trump -and often scathingly.
But what possibly sticks in Politico's claw is that RT has no illusions about Hillary Clinton. Politico wants everyone to believe that, while Clinton may have her failings, she is still preferable to Trump. RT, to its credit, hasn't been hoodwinked into falling for 'the lesser evil' argument.
|RT journalist and presenter Gayane Chichakyan.|
And veteran journalist Larry King- who hosted Larry King Live on CNN for 25 years - would bridle at the suggestion that he is a puppet of Putin. RT broadcasts his weekly interview show, Politicking with Larry King. He told the New Statesman in November last year:
“I hate censorship of any kind, abhor it, so I would never approve of you telling me what I can say, or I telling you what you can say. And I've never been censored – in fact, my whole life – by anyone. I've been fortunate. I’ve never been told ‘don’t book this guest’, ‘don’t ask this question’, ‘don’t reveal this’. And it’s never happened to me with RT . . .
Perhaps what's most ironic - but not surprising- is that the critics of RT mostly turn a blind eye to the almost uniform conservative views coming out of a western corporate media that has continued to fall into fewer and fewer hands. This is a corporate media that increasingly mirrors the interests of its corporate owners and the western political elites.
Perhaps the question that we should be asking is why shows similar to The Big Picture or Watching The Hawks or Going Underground don't feature in the schedules of BBC World or CNN - or even our own TVNZ for that matter.
Unlike the western corporate media there is a place for progressive news and current affairs coverage on RT - and maybe that's what really upsets RT's critics.