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Ofcom ready to act on RT licence if required

UK media regulator Ofcom has signaled its readiness to act against Russian government-backed information channel RT pending prime minister Theresa May’s update on the nerve gas attack on Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in Salisbury on Wednesday.

May has given the Russian government till the end of today to explain how the former spy was attacked in what she described as an “indiscriminate and reckless act” that also endangered residents of the city.

A number of MPs have raised the question of whether a withdrawal of RT’s licence should be included in a package of sanctions if the Russian state is deemed to be responsible for the attack. The channel is widely seen as a mouthpiece of the Russian government, though calls for it to be shut down have divided opinion.

“Ofcom has an ongoing duty to be satisfied that all broadcast licensees are fit and proper to hold a licence,” the regulator said.

“We have heard the Prime Minister’s statement in the House of Commons this afternoon and we await her further statement on Wednesday. We will then consider the implications for RT’s broadcast licences.”

Asked by Labour MP Chris Bryant if RT should be prevented from broadcasting in the UK, May said that she would update MPs on what measures would be taken later this week.

A number of MPs from both sides of the House of Commons have appeared on RT in the past. Following the Salisbury attack, Labour Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell said he would not appear on it in the future and called on MPs from his own party to boycott the service.