Anger as TV ads for Bri­tish phar­macy run on Rus­sia’s RT

The Sunday Telegraph - - News - By Mar­i­anna Hunt

BRI­TAIN’S big­gest on­line phar­macy ad­ver­tised on Rus­sia’s Krem­lin-spon­sored TV sta­tion, which was ac­cused of spread­ing pro­pa­ganda over the at­tempted mur­der of Sergei Skri­pal.

Phar­ma­cy2U, an NHS-backed ser­vice which pro­vides pa­tients with re­peat pre­scrip­tions, is among a clus­ter of Bri­tish firms found to have placed paid ad­verts on RT, pre­vi­ously known as Rus­sia To­day. Rus­sia’s state-funded net­work is be­ing in­ves­ti­gated by Of­com over al­leged breaches in im­par­tial­ity rules fol­low­ing cov­er­age of the poi­son­ings of Mr Skri­pal, and daugh­ter Yu­lia, in Sal­is­bury ear­lier this year.

In Septem­ber, RT aired an in­ter­view with two men sus­pected of per­pe­trat­ing the Novi­chok nerve agent at­tack in which they claimed they were in­no­cent and trav­elled to the city to visit the cathe­dral. A Con­ser­va­tive MP said par- lia­men­tary col­leagues were left “hor­ri­fied” when he told them Bri­tish firms were ad­ver­tis­ing on the sta­tion he de­scribed as “Putin’s mouth­piece”.

Richard Benyon, MP for New­bury, said: “Bri­tish doc­tors and nurses put their lives at risk try­ing to treat the nerve agent. I don’t think they’d be pleased to see the NHS af­fil­i­ated with RT.” Phar­ma­cy2U has since sus­pended the ad­verts af­ter the firm was con­tacted by NHS Eng­land. The com­pany, along with other busi­nesses found ad­ver­tis­ing on RT, said it was un­aware the ad­vert had been placed as it uses a com­put­erised sys­tem to au­to­mat­i­cally bid on cheap ad­ver­tise­ment slots.

A Phar­ma­cy2U spokesman said: “As soon as we knew about the ad we removed it im­me­di­ately.”

Pre­vi­ously RT, which has an av­er­age daily UK au­di­ence of 3,400, has voiced its dis­agree­ment with Of­com, de­scrib­ing it­self as a “sac­ri­fi­cial political pawn”.

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