Russian broadcaster RT could be forced off UK TV over spy crisis

Britain's media regulator Ofcom said Russian broadcaster RT could lose its UK licence if Prime Minister Theresa May's government determines that Moscow was behind the poisoning of a former Russian double agent in England this month.

Ofcom, which has repeatedly censured the Kremlin-controlled channel for a lack of impartiality, said it would wait until May outlines Britain's response to Russia on Wednesday and then "consider the implications for RT's broadcast licenses".
Ofcom has an ongoing duty to check that holders of broadcast licences remain "fit and proper" to operate in Britain.
The regulator said it had written to ANO TV Novosti, the holder of RT's UK broadcast licences, to explain that, should Britain determine there was unlawful use of force by the Russian state against the UK, it would consider this relevant to the "fit and proper" test.
Britain has given President Vladimir Putin until midnight on Tuesday to explain how a nerve agent developed by the former Soviet Union was used to strike down Sergei Skripal, 66, and his daughter Yulia, 33, in the city of Salisbury.
May’s assertion on Monday that it is “highly likely” the Russian state was responsible for the attack on Skripal has plunged Anglo-Russian relations to their lowest state in decades. The UK prime minister suggested that closing RT was one possible option for retaliation.
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British lawmakers 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”.
Responding to the threat, a spokeswoman for RT said the Russian channel is being used as a “sacrificial political pawn” in the fallout over Skripal’s poisoning.
“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 the spokeswoman, quoted by the Guardian newspaper.
Not a single British media outlet will be working in Russia if London decides to shut down RT broadcasting in the UK, Maria Zakharova, Russia’s Foreign Ministry spokeswoman, said.
“I can tell you right now that not a single British media outlet will be working in our country is they shut RT down,”Zakharova told Rossiya 1 channel.