A European satellite operator has pulled the new German-language broadcasts of Russia's state-owned media company RT off the air after German regulators ruled that it did not have a valid license in the latest media spat between the two countries.
Eutelsat said on December 22 that it had suspended RT DE at the request of German regulators. The MABB media authority in Berlin and the surrounding state of Brandenburg said in a statement sent to RFE/RL that the broadcaster did not apply for a broadcasting permit, nor was one issued in the country.
The move came after YouTube blocked the Russian broadcaster’s newly launched RT DE channel last week, less than three months after the U.S. video-sharing platform deleted two other German-language RT channels it accused of breaching its COVID-19 misinformation policies.
RT claims a license it holds in Serbia for satellite transmission gives it the right to broadcast in Germany under a Council of Europe agreement to which both countries are party.
"We consider the actions of the German regulator to be illegal and are convinced that this decision will be reviewed in court," RT said in a statement.
MABB considers the Serbian license insufficient because RT DE "is in German and aimed at the German market."
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said he could not rule out retaliation for the satellite block, which he described as “unacceptable."
Launched in 2005 as Russia Today, state-funded RT has continually expanded, with broadcasters and websites in languages including English, French, Spanish, and Arabic.
The channel has been banned in several countries, including the former Soviet republics of Lithuania and Latvia.
In the United states, it was required to register as a "foreign agent," and British authorities have threatened to revoke its broadcasting license.
The media dispute between Germany and Russia threatens to further strain their ties after a Berlin court last week sentenced a Russian to life in jail over a 2019 assassination on German soil that the court found had been ordered by Moscow.
The ruling prompted Berlin to expel two Russian diplomats, with Moscow responding with tit-for-tat expulsions.
Germany has also joined other Western countries in voicing alarm at a Russian troop buildup on the border with Ukraine.