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4 Feb, 2021 10:51

UK regulator Ofcom revokes broadcast license of China’s CGTN

UK regulator Ofcom revokes broadcast license of China’s CGTN

According to a statement issued on Thursday, the broadcasting regulator Ofcom has revoked China Global Television Network's license to air its programs in the UK.

An Ofcom investigation found that the license under which CGTN was operating had been wrongfully held by Star China Media Ltd (SCML). 

In a statement, Ofcom reiterated that “licence holders cannot be controlled by political bodies.”

It said SCML does not have editorial control or responsibility for CGTN’s programming, and therefore did not meet the requirement to hold a broadcasting license.

Its investigation found that CGTN is controlled by Chinese Central Television, 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 laws.”

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The regulator claims it was unable to transfer the license to CGTN directly as “crucial information was missing from the application,” adding that, even if said information had been provided, the fact that the Chinese Communist Party controls CGTN would in any case preclude it from holding a license in the UK.

SCML was found to be the distributor but not “the producer” of the service, and none of CGTN’s key stakeholders and senior editorial personnel were found to be employed by SCML, Ofcom said.

The broadcaster will likely also face separate sanctions over its coverage.

“We expect to conclude separate sanctions proceedings against CGTN for due impartiality and fairness and privacy breaches shortly,” the statement said.

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The regulator acknowledged that “the revocation of a broadcast licence is a significant interference with a broadcaster’s right to freedom of expression,” and claims it afforded CGTN sufficient time to comply, but it failed to do so after its September 2020 application was rejected. 

Ofcom concluded its statement by criticizing CGTN’s coverage of the Hong Kong protests, which it said was in “serious breach” of fairness and privacy rules. It is now considering sanctions in that regard that would be separate from Thursday’s decision to revoke the agency's broadcasting license. 

CGTN has yet to issue a statement in response to Ofcom’s decision.  

Meanwhile, the Chinese Foreign Ministry claimed it had made “stern representations” to the BBC over what it described as “fake news” coverage of the Covid-19 pandemic, and called on the British state broadcaster to apologize. 

Shortly after the Ofcom decision was announced, a ministry spokesperson said the BBC had “linked the pandemic to politics” and “rehashed theories about covering up by China.”

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