‘RT and the shifting sands of international broadcasting in the Middle East’

Professor Marie Gillespie and Dr Deena Dejani

Conference of International Broadcasters’ Audience Research Services, Bonn, Germany, 15-18 April 2018.

RT has been a hot topic in recent weeks in the UK with key government figures calling for its closure in the aftermath of the Skirpal affair. RT in Europe remains widely rebuked, resented and distrusted. Its TV audiences in Europe are fairly miniscule, even if its reach and engagement with social media users fares better. The only region in the world where RTs audiences appear to be on a steady rise is in the Middle East – Syria, Iraq and Libya especially. The crisis within Al Jazeera Arabic, and the pulling back of the BBC Arabic Service’s operations in the Middle East, have arguably increased the significance of RT Arabic’s presence in the region, particularly given its ‘alternative’, anti-American coverage of the latest developments in Syria, Iraq and elsewhere. This presentation develops insights gleaned at CIBAR’s 2017 panel on RT and presents preliminary findings of our investigations into RT Arabic. It will contribute to our understanding of RTs shifting   significance in the region as the geopolitical landscape undergoes convulsive shocks. It will examine how diverse audiences and users of RT Arabic respond to its coverage in general and to key moments in the war in and on Syria.