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RT could have its licence stripped by Ofcom if the Kremlin is officially blamed for the nerve agent attack - prompting Russia to threaten to ban UK journalists in response

  • Ofcom said today holders of broadcast licences had to be 'fit and proper' 
  • It wrote to Russia Today to warn it would be reviewed if ministers blame Russia 
  • The PM said yesterday it was 'highly likely' the Kremlin attacked Sergei Skripal

Kremlin broadcaster RT could be stripped of its right to air in Britain if the Government officially blames Moscow for the nerve agent attack in Salisbury. 

Ofcom wrote to RT – formerly known as Russia Today – this morning to explain its licence would be reviewed if ministers confirm Theresa May's announcement it was 'highly likely' Kremlin agents were behind the attack on Sergei Skripal.

The Russian Foreign Ministry immediately threatened to block British journalists working in Russia if RT was closed by regulators in London. 

Broadcasters in Britain must pass a 'fit and proper' test set by the TV watchdog to stay on the airwaves in Britain.

RT insisted its coverage was no different this week to any other and claimed cancelling its licence would mean the end of press freedom in Britain.

Kremlin broadcaster RT (pictured on air today covering Theresa May's response to the nerve agent attack) could be stripped of its right to air in Britain if the Government officially blames Moscow for the nerve agent attack in Salisbury

Kremlin broadcaster RT (pictured on air today covering Theresa May's response to the nerve agent attack) could be stripped of its right to air in Britain if the Government officially blames Moscow for the nerve agent attack in Salisbury

Theresa May (pictured in Downing Street today) has already said it is 'highly likely' Russia was to blame for the attack and is due to meet her security chiefs again tomorrow 

Theresa May (pictured in Downing Street today) has already said it is 'highly likely' Russia was to blame for the attack and is due to meet her security chiefs again tomorrow 

Sergei Skripal (pictured) and his daughter Yulia have been in a critical condition since they were found unconscious on a bench outside a shopping centre in Salisbury on March 4
Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia (pictured) have been in a critical condition since they were found unconscious on a bench outside a shopping centre in Salisbury on March 4

Sergei Skripal (left) and his daughter Yulia (right) have been in a critical condition since they were found unconscious on a bench outside a shopping centre in Salisbury on March 4

MPs have called for RT to be taken off air since the attempted assassination of Skripal last week.

In a statement today, Ofcom said: '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.

'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.'

The regulator added that 'we would carry out our independent fit and proper assessment on an expedited basis'.

A spokesman for 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.

British politicians (including Nigel Farage, pictured) have made frequent appearances on the controversial broadcaster in recent days 

British politicians (including Nigel Farage, pictured) have made frequent appearances on the controversial broadcaster in recent days 

'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.'

RT was set up in the mid-2000s to counter what Russian President Vladimir Putin saw as the dominance of American and British international media organisations and their allegedly pro-Western bias.

The channel is seen by its critics as giving a platform to conspiracy theorists as well as far-right or anti-establishment figures who emphasise Western hypocrisy or corruption. 

Labour MP Phil Wilson said British politicians should refuse to be interviewed by the channel, where former Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond has a talk show.

'It is a propaganda mouthpiece for the Russian state and should not be engaged with by any democratic politicians,' Wilson said. 

Russia Today has long been criticised in Britain for being a voice piece for President Vladimir Putin (pictured earlier this week)  

Russia Today has long been criticised in Britain for being a voice piece for President Vladimir Putin (pictured earlier this week)  

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Journalist, writer and broadcaster, based in London and Paris, her latest book is Touché: A French Woman's Take on the English. Read more articles from Agnes.

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