UK communications regulator Ofcom has revoked the China Global Television Network (CGTN) license to broadcast in Britain amid political control concerns.
The move follows an investigation by the regulatory body into the licensee, Star China Media Ltd, which found that it did not exercise editorial control over the English-language arm of China’s state broadcaster, China Central Television (CCTV). .
As such, the company did not meet the legal requirement to have a license, Ofcom said.
Furthermore, efforts to transfer the license to CCTV were also restricted by the UK regulator. The Chinese media outlet is disqualified from having a license due to its affiliation with the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).
British broadcasting laws prohibit political bodies or organizations with political ties from holding a broadcast license in the UK.
An Ofcom spokesperson said: “Our investigation showed that the license for China Global Television Network is held by an entity that has no editorial control over its programs. We cannot approve the request to transfer the license to China Global Television Network Corporation because in Ultimately, it is controlled by the Chinese Communist Party, which is not allowed under UK broadcasting law.
“We have provided CGTN with numerous opportunities to comply with the standards, but it has not. We now consider it appropriate to withdraw the license for CGTN to broadcast in the UK.”
The London-based UK operation is CGTN’s third base outside of China after opening offices in Washington DC and Nairobi.
Responding to Ofcom’s ruling, shadow Secretary of State for Digital, Cultural and Sports Media Jo Stevens said: “Too often, television channels run by foreign states have flagrantly violated the broadcast code, and the findings against CGTN were damning.
“Ofcom was right to act in accordance with its duty to ensure that those who have a license to broadcast in this country are in good shape.”
In 2020, the broadcaster was found to have violated fairness rules in its coverage of the protests in Hong Kong. Ofcom also confirmed complaints about the channel for violations of its fairness and privacy rules after it aired an alleged forced confession by British citizen Peter Humphrey and his wife.
The regulator had threatened sanctions for the violations, something that can continue legally even after CGTN ceases to have its license.
‘CGTN important for boosting China’s soft power in Europe’
In a statement, the human rights group Safeguard Defenders, which made an official complaint to Ofcom about CGTN, said: “Ofcom’s decision sends a strong signal that UK regulations apply equally to everyone, and follows a Similar decision against Iranian state television for many years.
“It is also likely to set a precedent for strict enforcement of rules regarding license ownership and control by political parties, an issue that, to our knowledge, has never been tested before.”
Safeguard Defenders, an organization that aims to promote the rule of law in Asia, expects China to respond “harshly” to what it considers its soft power abroad to be limited by Ofcom’s decision.
“It cannot be emphasized enough how important the CGTN is in the planned expansion of soft power and the CCP’s influence in Europe, which with the deterioration of the relationship with the United States has only become more important,” the statement added.
“While CCTV and CGTN are planning their future new headquarters, probably in Brussels, this will cause a serious disruption to Chinese TV-based influence operations in Europe.
“Much worse, for CGTN, Ofcom’s decision may draw attention to a type of violation that has gone unnoticed and may engage other television regulators to take a closer look at CCTV and CGTN operations in other jurisdictions.”
What about digital?
It is unclear whether Ofcom’s decision, which the regulator confirmed to Euronews only applies to CGTN’s ability to broadcast on its satellite news channel and not its online streaming service, will have a major impact on its digital operations. .
“It is true that CCTV, for example, which broadcasts many more such confessions and other forms of transmission that go against UK standards, has always been able to broadcast over IP and online. CGTN will also be able to continue, even after this, “Peter Dahlin, director of Safeguard Defenders, told Euronews.
“The UK has the strongest TV regulatory system in Europe, but it is still outdated and therefore prone to infringement and circumvention.
“However, the real power behind this decision has more to do with the wake-up call across Europe to such widespread violations of broadcasting and whether other regulatory bodies could start taking similar actions / investigations, something that has been lacking. in the past”.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism