Kremlin-backed TV channel sparks new Ofcom investigations

Broadcasting watchdog Ofcom has opened seven new investigations, following the Salisbury poisoning case, into a Kremlin-backed TV channel.

The regulator said that it was investigating "the due impartiality of news and current affairs programmes on the RT news channel", formerly Russia Today.

It said that since the Salisbury poisoning case, it has "observed a significant increase in the number of programmes" on the channel that should be investigated.

"Until recently, TV Novosti's overall compliance record has not been materially out of line with other broadcasters," Ofcom said of the company that broadcasts RT.

"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.

Police Community Support Officers standing outside the Salisbury home of Sergei Skripal (Ben Mitchell/PA)
Police Community Support Officers outside the Salisbury home of Sergei Skripal (Ben Mitchell/PA)

"We will announce the outcome of these investigations as soon as possible," it said.

The broadcasts all relate to the Salisbury incident or the chemical weapons attack in Syria and subsequent military action.

Two of the investigations are into a programme called Sputnik, hosted by George Galloway.

Ofcom previously announced it would consider whether the TV channel should broadcast in the UK if Russian involvement was proven in the poisoning of Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia.

And MPs voiced concern in the House of Commons about the Russian news channel.

The regulator previously said it had written to RT to explain that evidence of unlawful state interference would affect whether it was deemed "fit and proper" to hold a broadcasting licence.

Prime Minister Theresa May previously faced repeated calls for the Government to take action against RT in the Commons.

Labour former minister Chris Bryant said: "Can we just stop Russia Today just broadcasting its propaganda in this country?"

Labour MP Stephen Doughty added: "On Russia Today, can I urge the Prime Minister to speak with the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport to look at reviewing Russia Today's broadcasting licence, and to speak to the House authorities about blocking their broadcasts in this building itself.

"Why should we be watching their propaganda in this Parliament?"

The investigations form part of an Ofcom update, published on Wednesday, into the licences held by TV Novosti.

The regulator said: "In relation to our fit and proper duty, we will consider all relevant new evidence, including the outcome of these investigations and the future conduct of the licensee."

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