Russia Today (RT), the Russian government-funded international media outlet, may lose its broadcasting license in the United Kingdom after Prime Minister Theresa May told members of parliament it was “highly likely” that Russia was behind the nerve agent attack on double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter.
Skripal and his daughter Yulia were poisoned by what May claims to be a military-grade nerve agent of the Novichok group, developed by the Soviet Union during the 1970s and 1980s.
Following May's remarks, which have strained U.K.-Russia diplomatic relations, U.K. media regulator, Ofcom, announced it would “consider the implications for RT’s broadcast license."
In a public statement, a spokeswoman for the channel said: “it is regrettable to see RT so quickly proposed to be sacrificed as a political pawn, in one fell swoop doing away with any concept of press freedom in the UK.”
However, in a second statement on Tuesday, Ofcom reiterated they would carry out an “expedited” assessment on the network’s broadcasting license if U.K. authorities concluded the Russian government was involved in the Salisbury nerve agent attack.
“Should the U.K. investigating authorities determine that there was an unlawful use of force by the Russian State against the U.K., we would consider this relevant to our ongoing duty to be satisfied that RT is fit and proper,” the statement read.
May set a deadline of midnight Tuesday for the Russian government to explain why the deadly nerve agent was used on U.K. soil. Russia denied any involvement in the attack and stated it would not respond to any requests by the U.K. until it sends a sample of the compound.
“We sent an official request for access to this compound so that our experts could test it in accordance with the Chemical Weapons Convention,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Tuesday.
In 2012 Ofcom revoked Iran’s Press TV license arguing it had violated the U.K.’s Communications Act, which stipulates that broadcasting licenses must be held by the same office that holds editorial control.
Ofcom's actions against RT will depend on the contents of Theresa May's update to members of parliament, scheduled for Wednesday.