TV icon William Shatner has attacked the “political” BBC while defending the launch of his new series on the Russian state-backed media channel RT.

Shatner, best known for playing Captain James Kirk in original Star Trek series and veteran police sergeant TJ Hooker in the eponymous 1980s show, had initially tweeted to promote his new offering.

The actor wrote on Twitter: “I have a new show: 'I Don’t Understand' that is premiering on July 12th on @RT_com”

The news of Shatner’s involvement with RT, a state-controlled media outlet paid for by the Russian federal budget, was greeted with disappointment by many of his fans.

One of those fans wrote: “Nooo, not RT. I have basically boycott RT [sic] after the 2016 election, and you should to. Please.”

Following the US elections in 2016, in which Donald Trump was elected president, Twitter banned RT from purchasing advertising on its site.

The social media giant said the ban was because its investigations had found the Russian news broadcaster had “attempted to interfere with the election on behalf of the Russian government”. RT denied having done so.

Replying to the “boycotting” fan’s concerns, Shatner wrote: “Then don’t watch. It’s Simple.” He included an emoji of a man shrugging.

The conversation continued with another user, who asked: “RT, the news channel? What's your new show about?”

Shatner replied: “It’s a talk show like Raw Nerve but about things that are perplexing like Ion Drives, Radiation Shields, traveling to Mars - you know political stuff!”

He also peppered this response with emojis, including a laughing face and a raised eyebrow.

Raw Nerve was a show which ran for three seasons on The Biography Channel and saw Shatner conduct offbeat interviews with celebrities.

Responding to Shatner’s apparently sarcastic “political stuff” comment, another user wrote: “It is political because you are bringing people to a channel that is FUNDED BY RUSSIA to push disinformation around the world.

“That you pretend not [to] see that is laughable and disingenuous. But your new followers (read: Russian bots) will make you feel better about it.”

In response, Shatner attacked the BBC’s world service, drawing comparisons between it and the Kremlin-controlled RT.

READ MORE: Alyn Smith: Russia Report shows Tories are failing in duty to protect democracy

He wrote: “It’s political because you need it to be political. You do know that news services such as the BBC World Service are partially funded through the UK’s defense [sic] budget?

“What do you have to say about that?” He again accompanied his comment with an emoji of a man shrugging.

Polina Ivanova, a Moscow-based journalist for Reuters commented on Shatner’s post: “Oh wow it’s whataboutism actually literally spelled out.”

The BBC’s Neil Henderson quickly responded, saying that the “BBC World Service is funded primarily by the Licence Fee, not the 'defense budget'. It also gets a grant from the Foreign Office.”

The BBC World Service’s editorial policy guidelines on funding and external relationships, from 2015, state: “BBC World Service Group services are financed using a combination of public and commercial funding models.

“The BBC World Service is financed principally through the licence fee. It is also supported by limited commercial activity, such as advertising and sponsorship, as well as some external funding from appropriate organisations.”

The document details extensively what is and is not allowed when accepting advertising, sponsorships, and other external funding.

In 2015, the service was also handed a significant amount of funding as part of the UK’s “National Security Strategy and Strategic Defence and Security Review”.

BBC media correspondent David Silito wrote at the time that it was “very clear what this money is all about - soft power”.

READ MORE: Michael Gove faces fresh questions over insider document on Union polling

Shatner highlighted this document while discussing the World Service funding on Twitter.

Told it was funded by licence fees and not the defence budget, he replied: "So license fees in the UK go to national defense funding‽ That’s an interesting factoid."

Shatner seems to be conflating the "soft power" aims of the World Service with defence funding. 

Silito also commented: “While the Government will be helping to pay the bills - editorial control remains entirely with the BBC.”

In 2020, Latvia and Lithuania took RT off the air over intelligence they said proved a close ally of President Vladimir Putin was the “de facto” head of the media outlet, something RT denied.

The executive in question, Dmitry Kiselyov, had been personally named by Putin in 2013 to lead news organizations that promote Russia abroad.

Lithuania said RT was “free to challenge” their claims in court or “provide documents … proving the lack of connection between Kiselyov and RT”. To date, it does not seem to have done either.

Distancing himself from the Russian channel, Shatner said that he "made a TV program and they [RT] bought the distribution rights to it". He said the channel had "no input into the content, guests, filming or editing", adding: "The actions of a government really have no bearing on a show about exploring things I don’t understand.

"Perhaps you don’t understand that simple premise?"