Chinese state broadcaster loses UK licence over ownership, editorial policy issues

CCTV headquarters, the home of Chinese state media outlet CCTV and its English-language sister channel CGTN, in Beijing, China. (Photo courtesy: CCTV)

(, Feb05’21) – Noting that the registered licensee, a separate legal entity, “did not have editorial responsibility” – because it rested in the Communist Party of China – UK’s media watchdog Ofcom has revoked the licence of Chinese state owned China Global Television Network (CGTN). Ofcom said Star China Media Limited (SCML), which owns the UK licence for CGTN, did not have day-to-day control over the channel, which is against its rules, reported the Feb 5.

“As such, SCML does not meet the legal requirement of having control over the licensed service, and so is not a lawful broadcast licensee,” Ofcom has ruled.

UK’s broadcasting law mandates that licensees must have control over their service and its editorial policies.

“Our investigation showed that the licence for China Global Television Network is held by an entity which has no editorial control over its programmes,” Reuters Feb 4 quoted Ofcom as saying.

OfCom has also ruled, “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.”

China sought to hit back by lodging “stern representations” to the British Broadcasting Corp over what it said was “fake news” coverage of Covid-19, and urged the broadcaster to publicly apologise.

China’s foreign ministry complained about a coverage broadcast on Jan 29 about the coronavirus, saying that the BBC had recently “linked the pandemic to politics” and “rehashed theories about covering up by China”.

But the BBC said it stood by its “accurate and fair reporting of events in China and totally rejects these unfounded accusations of fake news or ideological bias”.

“The BBC is the world’s most trusted international broadcaster, reporting to a global audience of more than 400m people weekly without fear or favour,” Reuters quoted its statement as saying.

Ofcom previously ruled that CGTN, which broadcasts in English, repeatedly breached impartiality standards with its coverage of protests in Hong Kong, noted the Feb 4.

The regulators were reported to have identified violations across five separate broadcasts, ruling last year that the channel overemphasized the positions of government authorities in Hong Kong and China without exploring the views or motivations of protesters.

Ofcom was also reported to have found that CCTV News, which was renamed as CGTN in 2016, violated its rules in broadcasts covering the arrest of corporate investigator Peter Humphrey in China. The broadcasts in 2013 and 2014 included footage of Humphrey “appearing to confess to a criminal offense” that Ofcom said “had the potential materially and adversely to affect viewers’ perception of him” without giving Humphrey enough time to respond.


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