RT (formerly Russia Today) is a Russian international television network funded by the Russian government. It operates cable and satellite television channels directed to audiences outside of Russia, as well as providing Internet content in English, Spanish, French, German, Arabic and Russian.
RT International, based in Moscow, presents around-the-clock news bulletins, documentaries, talk shows, debates, sports news, and cultural programmes that it says provide "a Russian viewpoint on major global events". RT operates as a multilingual service with conventional channels in five languages: the original English-language channel was launched in 2005, the Arabic-language channel in 2007, Spanish in 2009, German in 2014 and French in 2017. RT America (since 2010), RT UK (since 2014), and other regional channels also offer some locally-based content.
RT is a brand of "TV-Novosti", an "autonomous non-profit organization", founded by the Russian news agency, RIA Novosti, on 6 April 2005. During the economic crisis in December 2008, the Russian government, headed by Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, included ANO "TV-Novosti" on its list of core organizations of strategic importance of Russia.
RT has been frequently described as a propaganda outlet for the Russian government and its foreign policy. RT has also been accused of spreading disinformation by news reporters, including some former RT reporters. The United Kingdom media regulator, Ofcom, has repeatedly found RT to have breached its rules on impartiality and of broadcasting "materially misleading" content. On 13 November 2017, RT America officially registered as a "foreign agent" with the United States Department of Justice under the Foreign Agents Registration Act. Under the act, RT will be required to disclose financial information.
The creation of RT was a part of a larger public relations effort by the Russian Government in 2005 that was intended to improve the image of Russia abroad. RT was conceived by former media minister Mikhail Lesin, and Russian president Vladimir Putin's press spokesperson Aleksei Gromov. At the time of RT's founding, RIA Novosti director Svetlana Mironyuk stated: "Unfortunately, at the level of mass consciousness in the West, Russia is associated with three words: communism, snow and poverty," and added "we would like to present a more complete picture of life in our country." It is registered as an autonomous nonprofit organization funded by the federal budget of Russia through the Federal Agency on Press and Mass Communications of the Russian Federation.
In 2005, RIA Novosti helped establish ANO TV-Novosti (or "Autonomous Non-profit Organization TV-News") to serve as the parent organization for the planned channel. ANO TV-Novosti was registered on 6 April 2005. ANO TV-Novosti appointed Sergey Frolov as its CEO position;
The channel was launched as Russia Today on 10 December 2005. At its launch, the channel employed 300 journalists, including approximately 70 from outside Russia. Russia Today appointed Margarita Simonyan as its editor-in-chief, who recruited foreign journalists as presenters and consultants. Simonyan stated that the channel's intent was to have a "professional format" akin to the BBC and Euronews that would "reflect Russia's opinion of the world" and present a "more balanced picture" of Russia.