UK TV regulator writes to RT, says it may consider whether channel's license is 'fit and proper'
Britain's media regulator Ofcom says it will "consider the implications for RT’s broadcast licenses" if it's determined there was "an unlawful use of force by the Russian state against the UK" in the poisoning of Sergei Skripal.
In a statement, Ofcom said: “As the independent UK broadcasting regulator, Ofcom has an ongoing duty to be satisfied that broadcast licensees remain fit and proper to hold their licences.
"We have today written to ANO TV Novosti, holder of RT’s UK broadcast licences, which is financed from the budget of the Russian Federation. This letter explained that, should the UK investigating authorities determine that there was an unlawful use of force by the Russian State against the UK, we would consider this relevant to our ongoing duty to be satisfied that RT is fit and proper.”
"The letter to RT said that we would carry out our independent fit and proper assessment on an expedited basis, and we would write to RT again shortly setting out details of our process.”
RT said in a statement that it disagreed with the position taken by Ofcom. "Our broadcasting has in no way changed this week from any other week, and continues to adhere to all standards.
"By linking RT to unrelated matters, Ofcom is conflating its role as a broadcasting regulator with matters of state. RT remains a valuable voice in the UK news landscape, covering vital yet neglected stories and voices, including those of the many MPs and other UK public figures who have been shut out of public discourse by the mainstream media.”
When the threat of having its license revoked first came to light, RT said the banning of the channel would do "away with any concept of press freedom in the UK.”
British Prime Minister Theresa May gave Moscow one day on Monday to explain the alleged use of a military-grade nerve agent, which the UK claims came from Russia to poison ex-double agent Skripal and his daughter Yulia. May says it’s “highly likely” Moscow was responsible.
She alleges the attack was either a direct act by the Russian state on Britain, or the Russian government allowed its nerve agent 'Novichok' to get into the wrong hands. “The government has concluded that it is highly likely that Russia was responsible,” she said.
After the statement in the House of Commons, Labour MP Chris Bryan asked May: “Can we just stop Russia Today [RT] broadcasting its propaganda in this country?” The PM responded by saying she would update MPs on “further measures” later this week.
The threat of banning RT led to a backlash from some on Twitter. RT contributors, viewers and members of the public speaking out against the proposal with some calling it an attack on “freedom of speech.”
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