Russia’s media regulator has announced it is opening an investigation into the BBC a day after Ofcom ruled that Kremlin-backed broadcaster RT (formerly Russia Today) had breached its broadcasting code.
RT was yesterday found to have breached impartiality rules seven times in a six-week period this year in its coverage of the poisoning of former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter in Salisbury in March.
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Roskomnadzor, Russia’s media watchdog, said it was examining whether the BBC World News channel and the BBC’s online services in the country are compliant with Russian law.
A BBC spokesperson said today: “As everywhere else in the world, the BBC works in Russia in full compliance with the country’s laws and regulations to deliver independent news and information to its audiences.”
In a tweet, Roskomnadzor said its investigation was “in connection with” UK broadcast regulator Ofcom’s ruling on RT.
Roskomnadzor will announce the results of its audit “shortly”, it said.
Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova wrote on Facebook (translated from Russian): “I am truly sorry for the BBC correspondents, many of which are real professionals and faithfully perform their duties.
“But the rude intervention of the British government in the activities of the Russian media (constant propaganda against the RT channel, attempts to defame our journalists etc) does not leave any choice but a mirror response. The Russian side warned. And repeatedly.”
RT editor Margarita Simonyan tweeted this morning (translated from Russian): “Yesterday, the British Roskomnadzor [issued] us seven warnings, absolutely out of the blue…
“Today, the Russian Roskomnadzor announced that it is starting to check the resources of the BBC. Brave new world.”
Ofcom said RT’s code breaches on its Sputnik, Crosstalk and news programmes between 17 March and 26 April represented a “serious failure of compliance with our broadcasting rules”.
The UK broadcast regulator has said it is considering sanctions.
Culture Secretary Jeremy Wright said Ofcom’s findings showed RT’s “mask as an impartial news provider is clearly slipping”.
An RT spokesperson said the broadcaster was “extremely disappointed” by Ofcom’s ruling “in what were almost all self-initiated investigations into RT by the regulator”.
They said: “We operate under rules outlined by the regulator, and always strive to abide by them.
“It appears Ofcom has failed to fully take on-board what we said in response to its investigations and, in particular, has not paid due regard to the rights of a broadcaster and the audience.”
The ruling yesterday came as Vladimir Putin took questions from journalists at an annual press conference (pictured).
Picture: Sputnik/Mikhael Klimentyev/Kremlin via Reuters