The U.K. broadcasting watchdog Ofcom on Friday has fined the Russian-backed news channel RT for $248,500 for “failing to comply” with British broadcasting laws.
“Our investigation found that RT failed to preserve due impartiality in seven news and current affairs programmes between 17 March and 26 April 2018,” Ofcom said in a statement.
“Taken together, these breaches represented serious and repeated failures of compliance with our rules. We were particularly concerned by the frequency of RT’s rule-breaking over a relatively short period of time,” the watchdog added.
Following the poisonings of Russian dissident Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in the British town of Salisbury in 2018, RT and a number of other Kremlin-backed TV channels drew up numerous theories and explanations of who could have been responsible for the poisonings but deflected blame away from Russia.
"We are outraged by the that the British media regulator Ofcom has imposed a fine on us, not waiting for the court decision, which should establish whether Ofcom’s claims on RT are legitimate,” RT said in a press release.
“At the same time, the amount significantly exceeds the fines imposed on other media for such serious violations as incitement to hatred and calls for violence, while RT media is subjectively accused by the regulator of "lack of impartiality”," the news channel added.
RT has been criticized for propagating for Russia as well as hosting right-wing conspiracy theorists in its debates and programs.
Earlier this month, RT and fellow channel Sputnik were barred by the foreign office from attending a media freedom conference, citing their role in "spreading disinformation”. The news channels accused the government of hypocrisy with the move being politically motivated.
In December 2018, Ofcom found RT to have committed several breaches of the U.K.’s broadcasting code during its reporting on the poisoning of former Soviet spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in Salisbury last year, a poisoning blamed on Russia.
Both RT and Sputnik are funded by the Russian government.
* Elena Teslova from Moscow contributed to this story.