UPATE (3/3): The company who produces the American arm of Russian state-funded network RT laid off staff on Thursday, CNN reports. In a memo the network obtained, T&R Productions, LLC told employees that it was “ceasing production” in all locations “as a result of unforeseen business interruption events.”
“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,” general manager Misha Solodovnikov wrote in the memo, putting an effective end to the network.
Attempts to reach T&R and RT America were unsuccessful.
Per Axios, DirecTV (which is owned by AT&T) had already been looking at whether to renew its contract with RT America, which was set to expire this year. But current events accelerated the process, with the company saying in a statement, “In line with our previous agreement with RT America, we are accelerating this year’s contract expiration timeline and will no longer offer their programming effective immediately.”
Along with DirecTV’s decision, the National Association of Broadcasters issued a statement Tuesday, March 1, urging its members to stop airing state-sponsored Russia programming (via Deadline). “While the First Amendment protects freedom of speech, however, it does not prevent private actors from exercising sound, moral judgment,” said NAB President Curtis LeGeyt. “To that end, given the unprovoked aggression exhibited by Russia against the free and sovereign people of Ukraine, NAB calls on broadcasters to cease carrying any state-sponsored programming with ties to the Russian government or its agents.”
The mounting pressure to cut off RT America and other outlets in America comes as providers and distributors take action across Europe. Roku, for instance, pulled RT in Europe (it’s still available on Roku in the U.S.), while Google, TikTok, Facebook, and Microsoft are also restricting access to Russian state-owned outlets after a European Commission ban on “the Kremlin’s media machine.”
Meanwhile, on the ground in Ukraine, Russia is literally taking aim at Ukraine’s media capabilities: Per The New York Times, a projectile hit the main radio and television tower in Kyiv Tuesday, with other explosions detected in the area. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said at least five people were killed. Additionally, the damage done to the tower temporarily forced Ukrainian television channels off the air.
Russia is also going after media outlets domestically, with the federal censor — at the behest of the Russian Attorney General’s Office — blocking the websites of the independent Dozhd TV channel (also known as TV Rain) and the radio station Ekho Moskvy. The two outlets were accused of promoting “extremist activities” and “deliberately and systematically” publishing “false information about the actions of the Russian military.”