Russia Goes After BBC as U.K. Threatens to Ban RT TV Channel

(Bloomberg) -- Russia’s communications watchdog, Roskomnadzor, announced it’s beginning a probe into the BBC’s legal compliance, a day after the U.K. announced a possible ban of the Kremlin-funded TV channel RT for breaching impartiality rules.

The U.K. media regulator, Ofcom, said Thursday that it’s “minded to consider imposing a statutory sanction” on RT after seven breaches of impartiality rules over a six-week period in spring 2018. The English-language channel came under fire in Britain after former spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia were poisoned with nerve agent in the city of Salisbury in March, plunging relations between London and Moscow into a deep new crisis.

A BBC spokesman said the broadcaster complies with all local legislation in Russia, as it does everywhere else in the world, the BBC’s Russian service reported.

The inquiry into the BBC “was long overdue,” Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said Friday in a Facebook post. “The Russian side has on a number of occasions warned” of possible tit-for-tat measures in response to the U.K.’s “gross interference” in the activities of Russian media and attempts to discredit Russian journalists, she said.

Questions have been mounting “about the BBC’s tendentious coverage of certain events” in Russia, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on a conference call Friday, without citing examples.

RT, founded under the name of Russia Today in 2005, has been accused in the West of operating as a propaganda outlet for the Kremlin. The channel rejects the allegations, saying it provides audiences with alternative angles and viewpoints to mainstream Western media.

Last year, the U.S. Congress investigated whether RT played a role in Russia’s suspected interference in the 2016 presidential campaign. U.S. officials ordered RTTV America, which produced content for RT until July 2014, to register as a foreign agent in 2017.

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