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Russian State Media Shuts Down RT America as Services Cut Propaganda Outlet

Matt Tamanini

In the days following the unprovoked Russian invasion of Ukraine, nearly all entertainment companies in the United States and around the world have cutoff operations in, and with, Russia. The vast majority of streaming, cable, and satellite services have de-platformed all of the Russian state propaganda outlets on their services, including RT, Sputnik, and more; while studios have pulled upcoming releases from the country.

It has also been reported that RT America — the American arm of Russia’s state-sponsored network RT — has ceased operations, effective immediately. According to CNN, in a memo to employees, Misha Solodovnikov, the general manager of T&R Productions — the network’s content supplier — said that it was shutting down production at all of its U.S. locations due to the network being dropped from practically all of its distribution platforms. The vast majority of the company’s employees were let go on Thursday.

“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 in the memo according to CNN.

While the entire industry was moving away from RT America’s Russian-based sister network, the blows that appear to have hastened the end for Russia’s U.S. outlet were the decisions by DIRECTV and Roku — RT America’s largest distributors — to drop the network completely.

But the question remains how the Kremlin-sponsored propaganda outlet had established such an expansive reach in the United States. While RT America did feature programs hosted by the likes of Dennis Miller, William Shatner, and Jesse Ventura, it was also Vladimir Putin’s primary mouthpiece for disinformation in the west, raising concerns as to why DIRECTV and Roku allowed them on their platforms to begin with.

With the expansion of Multichannel Video Programming Distributors (MVPDs), companies have had to get creative in finding content to bulk up their offerings in order to attract and retain viewers. So, the legitimacy added by familiar names very well could overshadow — or even hide — the true nature of the network.

As Alan Wolk wrote at TV Rev, this type of practice is not only concerning for consumers who might have not realized the connection between the presumed news channel and Putin’s regime, but also programmatic advertisers who unsuspectedly purchased ads on the network.

“It will only add to brands’ concerns about transparency in CTV, the fact that they rarely have any idea as to where and when their programmatically bought CTV ads are actually running,” Wolk wrote. “There’s now the additional concern that something that seems relatively brand safe—a talk show with a well-known former TV star and travel website spokesman—may turn out to be a viper’s nest of Russian propaganda.”

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