March 14, 2018 / 4:36 PM / 9 months ago

UK media regulator, asked about Russia Today, says considering May's update

LONDON (Reuters) - Britain’s media regulator said it was considering Prime Minister Theresa May’s statement on the poisoning of a Russian double agent before deciding whether the state-funded Russia Today (RT) should face an investigation that could lead to the revocation of its UK broadcasting licenses.

Ofcom warned on Tuesday that RT could lose its right to broadcast in Britain if it failed a so-called “fit and proper” test. It had said it would take it into consideration if May blamed Russia for the poisoning attack.

Russia’s Foreign Ministry has warned British media will be expelled if the UK shuts down RT.

May told parliament on Wednesday she believed Russia was indeed behind the attack that left ex-spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in a critical condition in hospital in the southern English city of Salisbury.

“We are now considering the Prime Minister’s update,” a spokesman for Ofcom said. May was asked about RT in parliament but said its status remained a matter for the regulator and not the government.

Russia has denied involvement in the poisoning and RT, which says it covers stories overlooked by the mainstream media, has criticized Ofcom’s position.

“We continue today, as ever, to provide a valuable alternative voice within the UK media environment and we trust that Ofcom will recognize this is the case and that nothing has changed,” a spokesman for RT said.

Ofcom, which enforces the broadcasting code in Britain, is charged with checking that holders of licenses are “fit and proper”. RT is available in 100 countries including in Britain where it broadcasts from London.

Ofcom has previously stripped two companies of their licenses to operate in Britain, one for broadcasting hate speech and another for showing explicit adult content.

Reporting by Kate Holton; Editing by Stephen Addison

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