British Prime Minister Theresa May March 14 expelled 23 Russian diplomats in retaliation for the alleged nerve gas attack earlier this month on a former Russian spy and his daughter at a cemetery in Salisbury. Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia remain hospitalized.
The status of RT (formerly “Russia Today”), the 24-hour Putin government-backed TV network broadcasting in the United Kingdom, remains unchanged. Several British politicians have called for banning the network, which features English-language programing on Russia and related cultural, political events.
In response, Russia has threatened to expel all British media should RT be stripped of its operating license in the United Kingdom.
“Not a single British media outlet will work in our country if they shut down ‘Russia Today,’” Russian Foreign Ministry’s Maria Zakharova told the state-run RIA, as reported by Reuters. “No one can go to a parliament of their country and say: I give Russia 24 hours.”
RT’s operating license is controlled by Ofcom, the broadcast regulator in the U.K., which is treating the matter with caution.
The agency said it has written to ANO TV Novosti, holder of RT’s UK broadcast licences, which is financed from the budget of the Russian Federation. It said the letter explained that, should the UK investigating authorities determine that there was an unlawful use of force by the Russian State against the UK, it would consider this relevant to its ongoing duty to be satisfied that RT is fit and proper.
The letter to RT said that Ofcom would carry out “our independent fit and proper assessment” on an expedited basis, and would write to RT again shortly setting out details of its process.
RT, in a statement, said its programing continues to adhere to all established standards and is simply a pawn in a war of words between Russia and the U.K.
“By linking RT to unrelated matters, Ofcom is conflating its role as a broadcasting regulator with matters of state,” RT said.