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Russian broadcaster RT hits back at threat to UK licence Russian broadcaster RT could be forced off UK airwaves
(about 3 hours later)
The Kremlin-controlled news channel RT has said it is being used as a “sacrificial political pawn” in the fallout over the poisoning of Sergei Skripal, and that revoking its broadcasting licence would make a mockery of the concept of press freedom in the UK. RT, the Kremlin-controlled news channel, faces being forced off air in the UK if the poisoning of Sergei Skripal is found to be an “unlawful use of force” by Russia against Britain.
MPs have called on the media regulator Ofcom to close the channel, which was founded by Vladimir Putin as Russia Today in 2005, calling its broadcasts a “propaganda mouthpiece for the Russian state”. The broadcasting regulator Ofcom, which has the power to close a TV channel if it decides it is not a “fit and proper” holder of a licence in the UK, said it had written to RT warning that a Russian act against the UK would trigger a fast-track investigation to potentially revoke its licence.
The channel has accused the press of spreading “fanciful” theories about the poisoning of Skripal and his daughter, Yulia, with nerve gas, saying it made for a “pretty boring story”. “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,” Ofcom said. “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.”
On Monday Theresa May suggested that closing the channel was one potential option and said she would reveal “further measures” on Wednesday. May’s assertion that it is highly likely the Russian state was responsible for the attack on Skripal has plunged Anglo-Russian relations to their lowest state since the cruise missile crisis in the 1980s. Ofcom, which last year conducted a fit and proper test on the Murdochs relating to their takeover of Sky, said it would carry out any investigation of RT on an “expedited basis”.
“It is regrettable to see RT so quickly proposed to be sacrificed as a political pawn, in one fell swoop doing away with any concept of press freedom in the UK,” said a spokeswoman for the channel . “RT serves a valuable role in completing the picture of news for its audience any curtailment of RT will ultimately be to the detriment of the British public. This only serves to increase the exact polarisation in society so frequently lamented.” “Ofcom has an ongoing duty to be satisfied that all broadcast licensees are fit and proper to hold a licence,” said the spokesman.
Ofcom has the power to close a TV channel if its decides it is not a “fit and proper” holder of a licence in the UK. The regulator has said, after May makes a further statement on Wednesday, it will “consider the implications” and whether to launch an investigation into RT’s licence. The prime minister, Theresa May, who has suggested closing the channel as one potential option, is set to update MPs on “further measures” on Wednesday.
“The Russian news channel RT broadcasts in the UK under licences issued by Ofcom as the broadcasting regulator,” Ofcom said. “Ofcom has an ongoing duty to be satisfied that all broadcast licensees are fit and proper to hold a licence. We await [May’s] further statement on Wednesday. We will then consider the implications for RT’s broadcast licences.” RT has said it is being used as a “sacrificial political pawn” in the fallout over the poisoning of Sergei Skripal, and that revoking its broadcasting licence would make a mockery of the concept of press freedom in the UK.
RT, which is thought to have a budget of as much as £215m a year, said it was “proud to have a better record with Ofcom than most other UK broadcasters”. MPs have called on Ofcom to close the channel, which was founded by Vladimir Putin as Russia Today in 2005, calling its broadcasts a “propaganda mouthpiece for the Russian state”.
The channel has accused the press of spreading “fanciful” theories about the poisoning of Skripal and his daughter, Yulia.
May’s assertion that it is highly likely the Russian state was responsible for the attack on Skripal has plunged Anglo-Russian relations to their lowest state since the cruise missile crisis in the 1980s.
“It is regrettable to see RT so quickly proposed to be sacrificed as a political pawn, in one fell swoop doing away with any concept of press freedom in the UK,” said a spokeswoman for the channel.
The regulator has said, after May makes a further statement on Wednesday, it will “consider the implications” and whether to launch an investigation into RT’s licence.
RT said it was “proud to have a better record with Ofcom than most other UK broadcasters”.
The channel has recorded 15 breaches of the UK broadcasting code since it began airing in Britain, three of which were serious enough to warrant a sanction. The most egregious was for a series of misleading or biased programmes on the conflicts in Ukraine and Syria, which resulted in RT being forced to broadcast corrections detailing Ofcom’s findings.The channel has recorded 15 breaches of the UK broadcasting code since it began airing in Britain, three of which were serious enough to warrant a sanction. The most egregious was for a series of misleading or biased programmes on the conflicts in Ukraine and Syria, which resulted in RT being forced to broadcast corrections detailing Ofcom’s findings.
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