Russia putting the screws on BBC in media spat

Russia's media regulator, Roskomnadzor, says it has started checking the legality of the BBC World News channel's Russian operations and its websites, following a statement by British media watchdog Ofcom that Russia's RT television channel had violated impartiality rules.

Roskomnadzor said on Dec. 21, 2018, that the goal of the verification is to establish whether the content of the BBC operation is consistent with Russian laws.


The statement comes a day after Ofcom said it was considering sanctioning Russia's state-financed RT, saying it had broken impartiality rules in seven programs in 2018, including coverage of the poisoning in Britain of former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter.

Britain blames the Russian government for the poisoning of the Skripals in the city of Salisbury in March 2018.

Russia has repeatedly denied that its agents were behind the poisoning and accused British intelligence agencies of staging the incident to stoke what they called "Russophobia."

Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The Skripals survived the poisoning, in which a Soviet-made military nerve agent known as Novichok was used.

Two other British citizens were exposed to the same nerve agent in June 2018, apparently by accident; one of them, Dawn Sturgess, died.

Ofcom since 2012 has repeatedly found RT to have breached its rules on impartiality and of broadcasting "materially misleading" content.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters in Moscow on Dec. 21, 2018, that Roskomnadzor's move was in response to Ofcom's announced checks of RT operations.

"Many have questions for the BBC regarding its biased coverage of some events, as they are covered not like a media outlet should do but in a preprogrammed and biased way," Peskov said.

Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova hailed Roskomnadzor's move, writing on Facebook that "it is high time to do that."

"...the British government's blatant interference in the activities of Russian medias outlets (constant propaganda against the RT channel, attempts to defame our reporters and so on) leave us no choice but to give a tit-for-tat response," Zakharova wrote.

The BBC said on Dec. 21, 2018, that it worked in full compliance with Russia's laws and regulations to deliver independent news.

"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," said a BBC spokesperson.

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.