January 18, 2018  |  Updated July 11, 2018

RT France Television Debuts to Mixed Reviews

By Donald Jensen

This article was originally published by CEPA.

Kremlin-funded television channel RT aired its first broadcast in France on 18 December with a segment that quoted Syrian President Bashar al-Assad accusing the French government of “supporting terrorism” in Syria and featuring a far-right local politician who waxed poetic about a world where France “regained its independence” from NATO. The channel hopes to expand quickly relying on such fake news. It has a reported launch budget of some $24 million and hopes to hire 150 employees by the end of next year. For the French market, this is a significant degree of funding; leading French news channel BFM TV now has an annual budget of about €60 million ($72 million). Most French households thus currently lack access to RT; it can only be seen online via its own website or with a subscription to the broadband arm of Iliad, a French telecom service provider. But RT’s reach may grow if negotiations with Orange and SFR—France’s two largest telecom conglomerates—end in an agreement. RT France also has a potential audience in Canada, Belgium, and the French-speaking Mediterranean.

The Kremlin initiative builds upon a foundation already established on social media in France. In the months before its transition to broadcast TV, RT’s French-language website and YouTube channel (with French dubs or subtitles of RT content) were already highly popular. During last spring’s presidential election, some videos received hundreds of thousands of views, likely due to their support of pro-Kremlin populist Marine Le Pen. Today, RT online boasts more than 84,000 followers on Twitter and a further 90,000 on Periscope, a live-video application.

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