In response to an Ofcom ruling against RT and the possibility that the broadcaster's licence might be revoked in the UK, Russia says it will now carry out checks to determine if the BBC World News channel and BBC News website are compliant with Russian law. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the BBC was being targeted for its “biased” and “unfair” coverage of events in Russia and Syria. The BBC says it is fully compliant with Russian laws "to deliver independent news and information to its audiences".
Meanwhile, the Guardian's reporting of this story brings another angle to the story:
RT last week published online messages it said were sent by a BBC Russian reporter to a local freelance journalist in France looking for a Russian “angle” to the “gilets jaunes” protests, such as Russian businesses benefiting from the protests or far-right Russians traveling to stir up violence. BBC Russian did not publish an article on the topic. The story has received ample coverage on Russian state television.
I was intrigued by this and read the RT report, written in French, via Google Translate (with the usual allowances for its foibles). It claims that BBC correspondent Olga Ivshina talked with a freelance journalist who was covering the protests of the 'yellow vests' and that she first asked the freelancer if there are "members of the National Front in the streets of Paris", and then added, "And if we find these ultra-right, will they talk about Putin and their links with Moscow?" The RT piece continues:
In the face of what appears to be a negative answer of the freelancer, Olga Ivshina asks if "Russians" participate in the demonstrations. Visibly faced with new denials, the BBC journalist does not give up and asks the freelancer about a possible presence of "Russian companies" on the spot, who would do "their headache during the riots". "But perhaps there is at least the ultra-right? And they can already be linked to Putin ... ", she asks again, determined. Still according to the conversation that RIA Novosti had access to, the BBC reporter explains her approach to the freelancer: "Yes, I'm looking for angles. Editorial wants blood."
It then says:
Contacted by RT, the BBC - confirming the conversation highlighted by RIA Novosti - replied in these terms: "Inasmuch as the French Foreign Minister has publicly spoken about media reports about a possible Russian influence on demonstrations, it was perfectly reasonable for our correspondent to raise the subject. However, in their final state, her reports made no mention of a possible connection with Russia. We stick to impartial and independent journalism."
Now that does sound like a genuine BBC statement, so the RT story could be true.
The BBC's response (as cited by RT) is a reasonable one, especially as they didn't run with suggestions of a connection anyhow. But, if true, it's still interesting that the BBC appears to have been focusing in so keenly on the far-right and Putin in connection to the “gilets jaunes” phenomenon. That would be a 'very BBC' thing to do.