“…Earlier this month, the British Broadcasting Corporation, which sees itself as still the best broadcaster in the world, gave a well-bred expression of fear. Peter Horrocks, who has just stepped down as head of the BBC World Service, said “we are being financially outgunned by Russia and the Chinese (broadcasters) … the role we need to play is an even handed one. We shouldn’t be pro one side or the other, we need to provide something people can trust.”

Horrocks was saying that people could trust the BBC; they couldn’t trust the Russians and the Chinese; but that the latter were now real competition.

The Russian broadcaster, Russian Today (RT) found that offensive. In a bad tempered exchange with CNN’s Christiane Amanpour, RT’s presenter Anissa Naouai (who is American) said that her channel’s job was “closing the holes” in mainstream Western channels’ coverage — holes of misrepresentation, unchecked assertion and bias. She admitted – indeed proclaimed – that the Kremlin funded the channel: but it’s reason for doing so is that President Vladimir Putin “wants … Russia to be respected, mutually respected on an equal playing base, and he wants dialogue to prevail.”

RT has denied that it gets more funding than the BBC, and in a feisty reply to the charge, the broadcaster said that money did not account for its growing popularity; that is “happening because audiences around the world, including in the UK, have become inundated with the same talking points from the mainstream media and are looking for something fresh.”

But money isn’t the point. The Russian and Chinese English-language channels – RT and CCTV News – are provided by state broadcasters of the world’s two leading authoritarian states. The news and analyses they give to their own populations cannot do other than conform closely to the policies and priorities of the rulers of these states…”

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John Lloyd co-founded the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism at the University of Oxford, where he is Director of Journalism. Lloyd has written several books, including “What the Media Are Doing to Our Politics” (2004). He is also a contributing editor at FT and the founder of FT Magazine.