The British broadcasting regulator has placed Russian-funded television station RT on notice following a chemical weapon attack in the UK.
Ofcom is questioning whether RT, formerly known as Russia Today, is fit and proper to hold a broadcast licence considering its direct funding by the public budget of the Russian state.
In response, Russia’s foreign ministry has warned that “not a single British media outlet will work in our country” if RT is cut in the UK.
The Ofcom investigation comes as British authorities consider sanctioning Russia if it is found to have committed the attempted murder of Sergei Skripal, which left his daughter Yulia and policeman Nick Bailey seriously ill in hospital.
Ofcom has warned the broadcaster that its funding is to be considered a relevant factor behind whether it is considered fit and proper to hold a licence.
The warning was sent in writing to ANO TV-Novosti, a company operated by Russia’s ministry of communications and mass media which holds RT’s UK broadcast licences.
The letter stressed that it is the source of RT’s funding rather than its editorial output, which has not significantly changed recently, that has been brought into question following potential Russian aggression towards the UK.
Boris Johnson, the Foreign Secretary, said that the UK was considering “a package of measures” if the attack was determined to have been orchestrated by the Kremlin.
Ofcom wrote: “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 Ofcom would carry out its independent assessment on “an expedited basis” and that it would write to RT again with the details of this process.
In response to the letter, RT said: “We disagree 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.”