RT France as an “alternative” media outlet for the extreme right communities in France. An audience study of YouTube comments

Gulnara Zakharova


RT France is the French branch of Russia Today, a Russian state-funded international television network. Launched in 2017, it has since been accused of acting as a Russian propaganda tool and has been subjected to criticism regarding its endorsing of extreme views. The channel defines itself as an “alternative source of information” as opposed to the “mainstream” media. Despite ongoing criticism, RT France’s audiences have been growing steadily, focusing on social media, especially YouTube, where the channel has a following of 1.07 million subscribers (as of February 6, 2022). This paper, as part of a larger ongoing doctoral research, aims at filling the gaps in the channel’s audience research in France by focusing on the Far-Right active viewers of the channel based on YouTube comments of its content. It shows how RT France’s YouTube channel provides anti-democratic counterpublics with a platform to consolidate and further spread their views. By studying comments on the fifteen most popular RT France’s YouTube videos (representing a variety of topics, formats and lengths) using qualitative content analysis, we demonstrate that Far-Right ideas are mentioned, endorsed and discussed often, though they do not always relate directly to the content provided by RT. We argue that Far-Right counterpublics get drawn to the channel due to its “alternative” positioning and history that amplify these counterpublics’ feeling of marginalization (Holm, 2019). They then claim the channel’s comments area as their own space of “withdrawal and regroupment” (Fraser, 1990), namely through localizing the channel’s international content to the national news agenda, while social media affordances of association and metavoicing (Holm, 2019) allow them to reaffirm these views and share them with wider publics. Made more visible by the architecture of YouTube, these views end up dominating the comments space, while opposing voices, through present, are barely noticeable.


RT France (Russia Today); audience research; YouTube; far-right communities online; social media comments; anti-democratic counterpublics

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Copyright (c) 2022 Gulnara Zakharova

License URL: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/
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ISSN 2398-0532

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