Chinese TV station banned from broadcasting in UK

Communications regulator Ofcom has withdrawn the licence for a Chinese television station to broadcast in the UK, saying that it the licensee "did not have editorial responsibility" for its output.

The TV station is based in Beijing.
The TV station is based in Beijing.

The watchdog said the licence holder for China Global Television Network (CGTN), an international English-language satellite news channel, does not meet the legal requirement of having control over the licensed service, and so is “not a lawful broadcast licensee”.

In the UK, broadcasting laws made by Parliament state that broadcast licensees must have control over the licensed service - including editorial oversight over the programmes they show. In addition, under these laws, licence holders cannot be controlled by political bodies.

The Ofcom investigation concluded that Star China Media Limited (SCML), the licence-holder for the CGTN service, did not have editorial responsibility for CGTN’s output. As such, SCML does not meet the legal requirement of having control over the licensed service, and so is not a lawful broadcast licensee.

It said that in addition, it had been unable to grant an application submitted in September 2020 in which it claimed it planned to restructure to separate the CGTN division from China Central Television (CCTV) and to transfer the licence to an entity called China Global Television Network Corporation because it found that it was controlled by a body which is “ultimately controlled by the Chinese Communist Party”. It said that crucial information was also missing from the application and that efforts to give CGTN time to comply with statutory rules had been “exhausted”.

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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 are unable to approve the application to transfer the licence to China Global Television Network Corporation because it is ultimately controlled by the Chinese Communist Party, which is not permitted under UK broadcasting law.

“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.”

Ofcom said that correspondence from CGTN submitted during the course of the investigation made clear that CGTNC is controlled by CCTV, which is also the sole shareholder of CGTNC.

It said: “Given CGTNC is controlled by CCTV – which, as part of the China Media Group, is controlled by the Chinese Communist Party and therefore disqualified from holding a broadcast licence under UK broadcasting laws - we consider that CGTNC would be disqualified from holding a licence.”

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It added: “Crucial information was missing from the application, while the restructure that CGTN had signalled had not, and still has not, taken place.”

CGTN was found in breach of British broadcasting regulations by Ofcom last year over its airing of a UK citizen's allegedly forced confession.

Ofcom also said it had found CGTN in breach of the Ofcom Broadcasting Code for failing to preserve due impartiality in its coverage of the Hong Kong protests, and also found a “serious breach” of its fairness and privacy rules. It said that decisions on sanctions proceedings were still ongoing.

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