The US arm of Russian state-backed media outlet RT is laying off staff and effectively shutting down amid backlash over the war in Ukraine.
Misha Solodvnikov, the general manager of T&R Production, made the announcement in a memo Thursday.
He told the network’s 100-strong staff that RT America will be ‘ceasing production… as a result of unforeseen business interruption events.’
‘Unfortunately, we anticipate this layoff will be permanent, meaning that this will result in the permanent separation from employment of most T&R employees at all locations,’ Solodovnikov wrote. ‘We deeply regret and understand the uncertainty this action will cause our valued employees.’
RT America has been sidelined in the U.S and most of Europe since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on February 24.
The network, seen as one of Putin’s main mouthpieces in the US, had referred to the unprovoked invasion as a ‘minor incursion intended for defensive purposes.’
Their stance quickly drew backlash and some of RT’s own staff publicly resigned, and multiple television providers, streaming tech service Roku and social media outlets severed ties with the network.
Satellite TV company DirecTV recently announced it would be pulling the plug on the channel on March 1, ahead of a contract that was going to expire later this year.
‘In line with our previous agreement with RT America, we are accelerating this year’s contract expiration timeline and will no longer offer their programming effective immediately,’ a spokesperson said.
Dish, which also carries the network, did not comment on its relationship with the Kremlin-backed channel. Formerly known as Russia Today, RT has sister stations across the globe, including United Kingdom and France, which have also been recently booted off-air.
YouTube, TikTok, Twitter and Facebook parent company Meta have also banned RT content on their platforms in Europe, with Meta executive Nick Clegg hinting that a decision was made in relation to ‘the exceptional nature of the current situation’ in Ukraine.
RT, formerly known as Russia Today, has announced the closure of its U.S. branch on Thursday. The state-funded TV network produces news content in English and several other languages across the world. Pictured: Employees of RT work in its international studio in Moscow, Russia.
RT America’s app will also be removed from Microsoft and Apple’s app stores in all countries except Russia. YouTube, TikTok and Facebook parent company Meta have also banned RT content on their platforms in Europe
RT’s app will no longer be available on Microsoft and Apple app stores in all countries except for Russia.
Spotify and Roku have also removed RT-linked podcasts from its platform.
Over the last month, the network has lost some of its key talent too. Talk show host and comedian Dennis Miller, 68, announced that he will abandon his show, Dennis Miller + One. It began airing on the channel in March 2020.
Actor William Shatner will also stop doing business with RT beyond his contractual agreement with the network after producing 70 episodes of a show for production company Ora TV, which then sold it to RT America.
In an interview with the Daily Beast, the 90-year-old said that all Ora TV productions for RT America have come to a halt. ‘I await with apprehension what will transpire but my total sympathy is with Ukraine,’ he said.
Nick Clegg, an executive at Meta, shared on Twitter that RT content will be limited on social media in Europe, including on Facebook – one of the social networks owned by the company
Dennis Miller, 68, also announced the immediate cancellation of his popular show, Dennis Miller + One, on RT amid rising tensions between the U.S. and Russia over Ukraine
William Shatner, 90, will stop working for RT too after producing 70 episodes of a show for production company Ora TV, which then sold it to RT America
While RT America’s audience in the United States is hard to scale, the news outlet received a lot of traffic online through the amplification of social media posts by conservative media companies.
‘The purpose of RT is for Russia to fight against the West and democratic values on the cheap,’ Robert Orttung, a professor of international relations at George Washington University, told the Washington Post.
‘It is easier to pay for this kind of divisive media coverage than to build a military equal to that of the United States and its allies.’
Yet its sudden shutdown should not come as a surprise given the current political climate, he added. ‘With sanctions taking a big bite out of the Russian economy and state income, the Kremlin is going to cut its most unproductive assets,’ Orttung said.
RT America’s YouTube channel, where it has 1.2 million subscribers, remains live.
In his column, a host for the network, Holland Cooke defended RT America’s reputation as well as its integrity.
‘I was never once censored, and never handed a script,’ he wrote, praising his ‘100+ enthused, whip-smart colleagues I genuinely enjoyed working alongside in a bustling broadcast center, handsome and lavishly equipped, two blocks from the White House, with an amazing hi-tech coffee machine.’
The Justice Department in 2017 required RT’s U.S. operations to register as a foreign agent, which angered Russian leaders. U.S. intelligence agencies have said that RT acted as propaganda for the Kremlin. Doing so did not restrict the channel’s content but meant it had to disclose its funding and label its content.
Staff at the network, which is headquartered in Washington D.C but has bureaus in New York, Los Angeles and Miami, will be given severance packages for the following two months.
RT has will now broadcast on Rumble, a YouTube-like video site, as soon as this week. Rumble is a video site popular among U.S. political conservatives. In December former U.S. President Donald Trump’s media venture, Trump Media and Technology Group, said Rumble will deliver video and streaming for Truth Social, the venture’s social media app that launched in the Apple
Dailymail.com has contacted Solodovnikov and RT for comment.
original source: Russia Today America is shutting down after lay offs