Chinese state-owned TV network CGTN has UK licence revoked by Ofcom

'We've provided CGTN with numerous opportunities to come into compliance, but it has not done so', says regulator

Matt Mathers
Thursday 04 February 2021 16:53
<p>Probe found network is controlled by  China's Communist Party</p>

Probe found network is controlled by China's Communist Party

A TV watchdog has stripped a Chinese network of its licence to broadcast in the UK after an investigation found it is ultimately controlled by the Communist Party.

Regulator Ofcom announced on Thursday morning that China Global Television Network (CGTN), an international English-language news channel, had broken its guidelines.

UK laws state that broadcast licenses must have control over their service and can not be controlled by political bodies.

But Ofcom's probe found that Star China Media Limited, which holds the UK licence, did not have editorial responsibility for the news channel's output.

An application to transfer the licence to another entity China Global Television Network Corporation (CGTNC) was denied because “crucial information was missing from the application”, and because the company “is controlled by a body which is ultimately controlled by the Chinese Communist Party".

An Ofcom spokesperson said: "Our investigation showed that the licence for China Global Television Network is held by an entity which has no editorial control over its programmes.

"We've provided CGTN with numerous opportunities to come into compliance, but it has not done so. We now consider it appropriate to withdraw the licence for CGTN to broadcast in the UK.”

In 2020, Ofcom found CGTN had breached the broadcasting code by failing to preserve due impartiality in its coverage of the Hong Kong protests.

The regulator said it is due to reach a decision about sanctions for the breach soon. Ofcom said it has three other fairness and privacy investigations about content on the CGTN service which also remains ongoing, pending further consideration.

In a statement released shortly after the Ofcom announcement, China’s foreign ministry said it had lodged “stern representations” to the BBC over what it said was “fake news” coverage of Covid-19, and urged the broadcaster to publicly apologise.

A spokesperson said that the BBC had recently “linked the pandemic to politics” and “rehashed theories about covering up by China”.

The BBC hit back: "We stand by our accurate and fair reporting of events in China and totally reject these unfounded accusations of fake news or ideological bias.

"The BBC is the world's most trusted international news broadcaster, reporting to a global audience of more than 400 million people weekly without fear or favour and in accordance with our editorial standards."

Julian Knight MP, chairman of the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee, welcomed Ofcom's decision.

"Today's ruling is confirmation that the Chinese Communist Party is the ultimate controller of its broadcasts which is not permitted under UK law," he said.

"CGTN had already breached broadcasting codes with a forced confession, and failure on impartiality over coverage of the Hong Kong protests.

"It should be seen as a strong warning that the power to broadcast carries with it responsibility and accountability. Failing this bar will not be tolerated."

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