U.K. broadcasting regulator Ofcom could strip RT of its license to operate in the U.K. if authorities confirm Russia was behind the poisoning of former spy Sergei Skripal.
Ofcom, which can shut down a TV channel it deems to be not a “fit and proper” holder of a license in the U.K., warned RT (formerly Russia Today) that proof Russia used “unlawful use of force” in the case of Skripal’s poisoning could trigger a formal investigation into the channel’s activity, the Guardian reported Tuesday.
Such an inquiry could result in RT — which has breached U.K. broadcasting codes 15 times since it began airing — being banned from operating in the U.K.
“We have today written to ANO TV Novosti, holder of RT’s U.K. broadcast licences, which is financed from the budget of the Russian Federation,” Ofcom said in a statement.
“This letter explained that, should the U.K. investigating authorities determine that there was an unlawful use of force by the Russian state against the U.K., we would consider this relevant to our ongoing duty to be satisfied that RT is fit and proper.”
In response, RT complained it was being used as “a sacrificial political pawn” and emphasized that a ban would undermine freedom of the press in the U.K.
“We disagree with the position taken by Ofcom,” an RT spokesperson said. “By linking RT to unrelated matters, Ofcom is conflating its role as a broadcasting regulator with matters of state.”
U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May said Monday it was “highly likely” Russia was responsible for the chemical attack on Skripal and his daughter Yulia, and gave Moscow until midnight on Tuesday to provide “a convincing explanation” for the incident.
If Russia fails to respond, the U.K. government is expected to announce potential retaliatory measures on Wednesday. May has suggested closing the channel as one potential option.