UK watchdog opens seven probes into RT reporting on Salisbury attack

Ofcom is examining "impartiality of news and current affairs programmes"

UK watchdog opens seven probes into RT reporting on Salisbury attack

File photo of an RT sign | Image: Chris Radburn/PA Wire/PA Images

The British media watchdog Ofcom says it has opened seven new investigations into the Russian international broadcaster, Russia Today (RT).

It says these are examining the "impartiality of news and current affairs programmes" on the news channel.

The investigations form part of an update into the licences held by TV Novosti, the company that broadcasts RT.

Ofcom says: "Until recently, TV Novosti's overall compliance record has not been materially out of line with other broadcasters.

"However, since the events in Salisbury, we have observed a significant increase in the number of programmes on the RT service that warrant investigation as potential breaches of the Ofcom Broadcasting Code."

Former Russian double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia were found slumped on a park bench on March 4th, after being exposed to the novichok nerve agent.

TV Novosti holds three broadcasting licences for the UK: two for RT and one for RT Europe.

The licences for both services cover broadcasts on satellite and the internet.

Image: rt.com

Ofcom says: "On March 12th 2018, following the use of a nerve agent in Salisbury, Ofcom said that we would consider the implications of these events for the broadcast licences for RT and RT Europe and this document provides an update to that statement including setting out our approach in this case.

"In judging whether someone is fit and proper to hold a broadcast licence, the central consideration is whether they can be expected to be a responsible broadcaster.

"We look at broadcasting compliance: serious, repeated or ongoing breaches of standards may suggest a lack of fitness and properness."

The watchdog says it may also look at non-broadcasting related content where it considers it relevant to the likely future conduct of the broadcast licensee and/or to public confidence in the broadcasting regime as a whole.

In an example, Ofcom says: "We have revoked licences to protect children from hardcore pornography and following the broadcast of material likely to incite terrorism."