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Toddler channel BabyTV briefly taken over by Russian propaganda

On Thursday, March 28, around twenty past twelve in the afternoon, a light gray image suddenly appeared for a few seconds instead of the normal BabyTV broadcast. Immediately afterwards there was a close-up of the Russian propaganda singer Oleg Gazmanov and he started singing:

“It has always been like that in Russia: the higher the pressure, the stronger the concrete. And when the nation faces a threat, the Motherland becomes like a monolith. Today, as in times past, the steel of the Motherland is tempered again, in the hearth of victory!”

For the average viewer of BabyTV, the Russian lyrics of Gazmanov’s hit ‘Forward, Russia’ would have been difficult to understand. The channel, which is owned by The Walt Disney Company and available in several countries, is aimed at children under the age of three. But the visual language of ‘Forward, Russia’ contrasted so strongly with the colorful world of the regular programs that it quickly became clear that something was not right. Soldiers began marching next to Gazmanov, immediately followed by images of the Red Army during World War II, with advancing tanks and destroyed Nazi banners. This was followed by shots of modern Russian weaponry, still accompanied by the song’s pumping music and Gazmanov’s enthusiastic singing.


The images on BabyTV were taken from the official video clip of ‘Vooruit, Russia’. On March 28, they interrupted the regular broadcast twice. The first time was at 12:18 and it was very short, only 22 seconds. A little later, at 12.25 p.m., the disruption lasted more than three minutes, De Standaard heard on BabyTV. “We confirm that the broadcast of channels broadcast via Eutelsat (a French satellite provider active throughout Europe, ed.), including BabyTV, was interrupted by an external source on that day,” said a spokesperson for the channel. “Every country where BabyTV is distributed via Eutelsat was affected, including Belgium.”

Telecom company Telenet, which uses Eutelsat’s signal, deduces that there were “irregularities” based on technical reports from that day. “The reception of that signal is encrypted and therefore secured,” reports spokesperson Bart Boone. “But if the hacking happens before then – at the source, before the channel is forwarded to us – we cannot remedy this. The only option is to black out the channel as soon as we become aware of any problems or irregularities. We have not received any complaints from customers about this so far.”

The Dutch media nu.nl and NOS were the first to report about the outage after a parent tipped off nu.nl. “You saw Russian President Putin, the Russian flag, animations of a bridge and the map of Russia,” Michael Domenech told nu.nl. “I wondered: what is this? We then zapped back and forth. It turned out to actually be broadcast on BabyTV.”

Red Square

The ‘gap’ through which the broadcast was taken over was located at satellite provider Eutelsat. “We have identified radio frequency interference from an external source,” confirmed Eutelsat spokeswoman Joanna Darlington. “There was a temporary impact on some video services. A small number of customers distributing content in Europe have been affected by this interference.”

Other channels that use Eutelsat would also be disrupted. This makes it unlikely that the perpetrators deliberately targeted BabyTV. But because the report was about that channel, the effect of the attack is greater: the last thing you expect on a toddler channel is a Russian nationalist song.

Eutelsat itself says it cannot comment on the “potential source of the external interference”.

According to BabyTV, the disruptive signal was determined to have originated in Russia. The choice of content that was broadcast makes this likely. Oleg Gazmanov has made patriotic pop songs his trademark. Two years ago, according to the independent Russian medium Meduza, he appeared at a mass meeting in Moscow to commemorate the annexation of Crimea and support the full-scale invasion of Ukraine. In June he also performed ‘Vooruit Russia’ for a packed Red Square. That was on the occasion of Russia’s national holiday.

The brief disruption of the BabyTV broadcast fits into the list of channels through which Russian propaganda or disinformation is spread. In relation to other incidents, its consequences are very relative, although the method is very special. A hack into a TV satellite goes quite far and once again shows how vulnerable information systems in Europe can be.

“Our teams are fully addressing the issue and are vigilant to ensure service delivery for potentially affected customers,” said the Eutelsat spokeswoman.

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