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British Media Regulator Probes RT's Impartiality After Salisbury Poisoning


Britain's media watchdog is investigating whether Russian news channel RT broke impartiality rules in its programs after a former Russian double agent and his daughter were poisoned in the English city of Salisbury last month.

Media regulator Ofcom warned on April 18 that TV Novosti, the company which produces RT, could lose its British broadcasting rights if it failed its "fit-and-proper" test.

"Until recently, TV Novosti's overall compliance record has not been materially out of line with other broadcasters," Ofcom said in a statement on April 18.

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

"Ofcom has today opened seven new investigations into the due impartiality of news and current-affairs programs on the RT news channel," the regulator said.

It said it would consider "all relevant new evidence, including the outcome of these investigations and the future conduct of the licensee."

Britain blames Russia for the March 4 poisoning of Sergei and Yulia Skripal with a nerve agent -- a charge that Moscow denies.

Russia's Foreign Ministry has warned that British media outlets will be forced to close Russian operations if Britain expels RT, which used to be known as Russia Today.

In a statement, RT said that the channel's "editorial approach has not changed since the events in Salisbury, and we will be directly addressing this matter with the regulator."

"We are pleased to see that Ofcom has acknowledged RT’s compliance record has been in line with other broadcasters," the statement said.

Russia's Embassy in London said that "this targeted scrutiny, directed at one particular news organization and regarding one particular issue, amounts to pressure against this specific broadcaster."

"This increased scrutiny is sure to affect press freedom in Britain," it added.

With reporting by Reuters and AFP
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