Dismissing the application:
(1) There was no requirement for Ofcom to consider any “dominant media narrative” or other programmes included within the broadcast service concerned when adjudicating on matters of due impartiality. On a proper construction the 2003 Act requires due balance in each programme (or linked programmes – about which there are specific provisions made and published by Ofcom) within a broadcaster’s schedule.
(2) Meeting the due impartiality requirements without consideration of such matters is not incompatible with Article 10.
The law recognises the special power and immediacy of broadcasting, such that broadcasters can lawfully be required to maintain due impartiality without reference to other media or to other of their own (unlinked) output. The three-part scheme by which broadcasting is regulated under the 2003 Act to enhance democratic debate – due impartiality in programmes, a ban on political advertising, and the provision of free party political and party election broadcasts – reflects the importance of broadcasting as a medium for the propagation of information and opinion, perhaps even more than in the past given current concerns about the effect on the democratic process of news manipulation and of fake news.
(3) The sanction was not disproportionate given the actual and potential harm caused to democratic debate by politically partial broadcast programmes, and taking account of Novosti’s compliance record and turnover.
In respect of turnover, although the 2003 Act caps the penalty that can be applied to breaches of Novosti’s type of licence to the greater of 5% of “qualifying revenue” (essentially income derived by the licensee from advertising and subscription) or £250,000, Ofcom can consider turnover more generally in its assessment of what level within the cap should be imposed.