Russian broadcaster RT may lose UK licence, regulator says

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FILE PHOTO: Vehicles of Russian state-controlled broadcaster RT are seen in Red Square in central Moscow

LONDON (Reuters) -Britain's media regulator Ofcom said on Wednesday it was considering whether news broadcaster RT should retain its licence in the country, after it stepped up investigations into the Russian-backed television channel.

Ofcom said on Monday it had launched 15 investigations into the impartiality of RT's output and on Wednesday said it had opened a further 12 investigations into RT's programming.

"We are very concerned by the volume of programmes on RT that are raising potential issues under the Broadcasting Code, and as we progress our investigations we are considering whether RT should retain a UK licence," the regulator said.

RT and news outlet Sputnik have faced wide-spread sanctions after Russia invaded Ukraine, with the European Union banning the groups for what it called systematic disinformation over the crisis while Western tech platforms have restricted access to the two.

Britain's government has said an outright ban could lead to reciprocal action by Moscow against the BBC and other British media organisations. Ofcom instead has increased its analysis of RT's output to monitor whether it is impartial and includes a significant range of voices.

RT had previously told Reuters that the Ofcom investigation was unsurprising giving the "immense political pressure" being placed on what it called a supposedly independent regulator.

(Reporting by Kate Holton; editing by David Milliken)