BBC investigated by Russian watchdog in retaliation for Ofcom RT probe 

July 13, 2020 0 By HearthstoneYarns

Russian authorities on Friday launched an investigation into BBC World News and BBC websites operating in the country, a day after the British broadcasting regulator Ofcom accused Russia’s state-sponsored TV channel RT of biased coverage. 

The Russian media watchdog, Roskomnadzor, will look into whether content distributed by the BBC in Russia is “in compliance with the law”, it said in a statement carried by the Interfax news agency.

It said it launched the probe "following the situation with the British regulator Ofcom ruling that Russia Today, or RT, violated broadcasting regulations”.

On Thursday, Ofcom accused RT of failing to impartially cover the poisoning of former Russian spy Sergei Skripal, as well as conflicts in Ukraine and Syria. Sanctions against the TV channel are currently under consideration and may include a fine or the revocation of the channel’s UK licence.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov confirmed to reporters on Friday that Russian investigation was a response to the UK regulator’s move against RT. He added that “questions about [BBC’s] coverage” of “what is happening in Syria and in Russia” have been “piling up for a while now”.  

Maria Zakharova, spokeswoman of Russia’s Foreign Ministry, echoed his sentiment. “It’s been a long time coming,” she wrote in a Facebook post. 

“I genuinely sympathise with BBC correspondents, many of which are true professionals and do their job really well. But UK government’s blatant interference in what Russian media do (constant propaganda against the RT channel, attempts to discredit our journalists etc) doesn’t leave any choice other than retaliatory measures. Russian side warned [the UK]. Many times,” Ms Zakharova wrote. 

Actions the UK authorities take against RT will influence the investigation into BBC in Russia, Leonid Levin, chairman of the State Duma’s communications committee, told Interfax on Friday. 

“We never restrict foreign media [from working] in Russia,” he was quoted by the news agency as saying. “But facts that fuel the UK’s investigation into Russian media will influence the outcome of our investigation into British media,” Mr Levin added. 

But the news agency also cited a source familiar with the investigation as saying the work of the BBC could be restricted if any violations of the country’s law.

In an online statement, the BBC said that in Russia, as in any other country, the broadcaster distributes objective and independent information in compliance to all local laws and regulations. 

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