TV icon William Shatner attacked the “political” BBC while defending the launch of his new series on Russian media channel RT.
Shatner, best known for playing Captain James Kirk on the original Star Trek series and veteran Police Sergeant TJ Hooker on the eponymous 1980s show, originally tweeted to promote his new offering.
The actor wrote on Twitter: “I have a new show: ‘I don’t understand’ which airs July 12 on @RT_com”
News of Shatner’s involvement with RT, a state-controlled outlet funded by the Russian federal budget, has been met with disappointment by many of his fans.
One of those fans wrote, “Noooo, not RT. I basically boycotted RT [sic] after the 2016 election, and you should. Please.”
Noooo, not RT. I basically boycotted RT after the 2016 election, and you should. Please.
– Jason (@ JasonKe49593230) June 30, 2021
Following the 2016 US election, in which Donald Trump was elected president, Twitter banned RT from buying advertising on his site.
The social media giant said the ban was due to its investigations revealing that the Russian news broadcaster had “tried to interfere with the elections on behalf of the Russian government.” RT has denied doing so.
Responding to fans ” boycott ‘concerns, Shatner wrote,’ So don’t look. It’s simple. ”He included an emoji of a shrugging man.
RT, the news channel? What is your new show about?
– PasMousse (@NotMousse) June 30, 2021
The conversation continued with another internet user, who asked, “RT, the news channel? What is your new show about? ”
Shatner replied, “It’s a talk show like Raw Nerve, but on things that are confusing like Ion Drives, Radiation Shields, Mars travel – you know political stuff!
He also sprinkled this response with emojis, including a laughing face and a raised eyebrow.
It’s political because you’re bringing people to a RUSSIAN-FUNDED channel to spread disinformation around the world. That you pretend not to see what is laughable and dishonest. But your new subscribers (read: Russian bots) will make you feel better.
– DN (@perfectly_queer) June 30, 2021
Raw Nerve was a show that ran for three seasons on The Biography Channel and saw Shatner conduct quirky interviews with celebrities.
Responding to Shatner’s seemingly sarcastic comment on ‘political stuff’, another user wrote: ‘It’s political because you’re bringing people to a RUSSIAN-FUNDED channel to spread disinformation around the world.
“That you pretend not to [to] see that it is laughable and dishonest. But your new subscribers (read: Russian bots) will make you feel better about it. ”
In response, Shatner attacked the BBC’s world service, drawing comparisons between it and Kremlin-controlled RT.
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He wrote: “It’s political because you need it to be political. You know that news services like BBC World Service are partly funded by UK defense. [sic] budget?
“What do you have to say about this?” He again accompanied his comment with an emoji of a shrugging man.
Polina Ivanova, a Moscow-based Reuters reporter, commented on Shatner’s post: “Oh wow, that’s what whataboutism is actually literally spelled out.”
The BBC’s Neil Henderson responded quickly, saying that “BBC World Service is funded primarily by license fees, not the ‘defense budget’. He also obtained a grant from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
The BBC World Service is funded primarily by the license fee, not the “defense budget”. He also obtained a grant from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. https://t.co/jesy8eUP0J
– Neil Henderson (@hendopolis) June 30, 2021
The BBC World Service’s editorial policy guidelines on funding and external relations, 2015, state: “The services of the BBC World Service group are funded using a combination of public and commercial funding models.
“The BBC World Service is funded primarily by the license fee. It is also supported by limited commercial activity, such as advertising and sponsorship, as well as some external funding from appropriate organizations.
The document details what is and is not allowed when accepting advertisements, sponsorships and other external funding.
In 2015, the service also received significant funding under the UK’s ‘National Security Strategy and Defense and Security Strategic Review’.
BBC media correspondent David Silito wrote at the time that it was “very clear what this money is for – soft power”.
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Shatner highlighted this document while discussing funding for the World Service on Twitter.
Said he was funded by license fees and not by the defense budget, he replied: “So the license fees in the UK go to funding national defense. It’s an interesting fact. ”
Shatner seems to confuse World Service’s “soft power” goals with defense funding.
Silito also commented: “While the government will help pay the bills, editorial control remains entirely with the BBC. ”
In 2020, Latvia and Lithuania took RT off the air because of intelligence they said proved that a close ally of President Vladimir Putin was the “de facto” head of the media outlet, which RT has denied.
The executive in question, Dmitry Kiselyov, was personally appointed by Putin in 2013 to head media organizations that promote Russia abroad.
Lithuania said RT was “free to challenge” their claims in court or “to provide documents … proving the lack of connection between Kiselyov and RT”. To this day, he doesn’t appear to have done so either.
Distancing himself from the Russian channel, Shatner said he “did a TV show and they [RT] purchased the distribution rights. ”He said the channel had“ no contribution to content, guests, filming or editing, ”adding:“ The actions of a government really do not affect a show about exploring things I don’t understand.
“Maybe you don’t understand that simple premise?”