UK bars RT, Sputnik from conference for ‘disinformation’

Vehicles of Russian state-controlled broadcaster Russia Today (RT) near Red Square, Moscow. (Reuters)
Updated 09 July 2019
0

UK bars RT, Sputnik from conference for ‘disinformation’

  • Foreign Office spokeswoman: We have not accredited RT or Sputnik because of their active role in spreading disinformation
  • Some 60 ministers and 1,000 journalists and members of civil society are expected to attend the conference

LONDON: Britain said Monday it had barred Russia’s RT and Sputnik news organizations from a global conference on media freedom in London because of their “active role in spreading disinformation.”
Some 60 ministers and 1,000 journalists and members of civil society are expected to attend the meeting on Wednesday and Thursday co-hosted with Canada.
“We have not accredited RT or Sputnik because of their active role in spreading disinformation,” a Foreign Office spokeswoman said.
“While it’s not possible to accommodate all requests for accreditation, journalists from across the world’s media are attending the conference, including from Russia.”
The Russian embassy previously condemned the decision relating to RT as “direct politically motivated discrimination” and said it had complained to the Foreign Office.
In a statement on Friday, it said RT had been told there was no space for its journalists at the conference.
After the Foreign Office comments on Monday, RT said in a statement: “It takes a particular brand of hypocrisy to advocate for freedom of press while banning inconvenient voices and slandering alternative media.”
In December, British media regulator Ofcom found RT had broken impartiality rules with several programs broadcast after the nerve agent attack in the English city of Salisbury.
Moscow has denied claims by London that it approved the attack on a former Russian double agent in March last year.
Organizers of the London conference say it is intended to increase international discussion and cooperation on the issue of media freedom, including fake news.
International human rights lawyer Amal Clooney will attend in her capacity as Britain’s special envoy on media freedom.
She will convene the first meeting of an independent panel of experts to look at how to strengthen national legislation to protect journalists.
The final guest list has yet to be published but officials said the only countries not invited to the conference are North Korea, Syria and Venezuela.
Ahead of the conference, Britain announced £18 million to counter disinformation across eastern Europe and to strengthen independent media in the western Balkans.
It is part of a £100 million, five-year commitment aimed at eastern Europe and central Asia.


Netflix to roll out cheaper mobile-only plan for India

Updated 18 July 2019
0

Netflix to roll out cheaper mobile-only plan for India

  • India is among the last big growth markets for the company
  • Netflix faces competition from Amazon’s Prime Video and Walt Disney Co’s Hotstar
Netflix said on Wednesday it would roll out a lower-priced mobile-only plan in India within the next three months to tap into a price-sensitive market at a time the streaming company is losing customers in its home turf.
India is among the last big growth markets for the company, where it faces competition from Amazon.com Inc’s Prime Video and Hotstar, a video streaming platform owned by Walt Disney Co’s India unit.
Netflix lost US streaming customers for the first time in eight years on Wednesday, when it posted quarterly results. It also missed targets for new subscribers overseas.
“India is a mobile-first nation, where many first-time users are experiencing the Internet on their phones. In such a scenario, a mobile-only package makes sense to target new users,” said Tarun Pathak, analyst at Counterpoint Research.
The creator of “Stranger Things” and “The Crown” said in March that it was testing a 250-rupee ($3.63) monthly subscription for mobile devices in India, where data plans are among the cheapest in the world.
The country figures prominently in Chief Executive Officer Reed Hastings’ global expansion plans.
“We believe this plan, which will launch in the third quarter, will be an effective way to introduce a larger number of people in India to Netflix and to further expand our business,” the company said in a letter to investors released late on Wednesday.
Netflix currently offers three monthly plans in India, priced between 500 rupees ($7.27) and 800 rupees $11.63).
It has created a niche following in the country by launching local original shows like the thriller “Sacred Games” and dystopian tale “Leila,” which feature popular Bollywood actors.
The second season of “Sacred Games” is set to release in August.
In contrast, Hotstar, which also offers content from AT&T Inc’s HBO and also streams live sports, charges 299 rupees ($4.35) per month. Amazon bundles its video and music streaming services with its Prime membership.
“We’ve been seeing nice steady increases in engagement with our Indian viewers that we think we can keep building on. Growth in that country is a marathon, so we’re in it for the long haul,” Netflix Chief Content Officer Ted Sarandos said.