Loophole enables Beijing-controlled China Global Television Network to resume broadcasting in UK after being fined, delicensed

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

(TibetanReview.net, Aug27’21) – Britain’s broadcasting regulator has fined a Chinese company £200,000 for “serious breaches” of its rules on fairness and privacy, reported The Telegraph Aug 26. The report said this followed Ofcom’s opening of investigations into English language broadcasts by Beijing-controlled CCTV News and CGTN after two complaints about unfair treatment and infringement of privacy.

The license for the UK broadcast of CCTV, which is now called China Global Television Network (CGTN), until it was revoked by Ofcom in Feb 2021, was held by an entity called the Star China Media.

Ofcom revoked the license after finding the channel was “ultimately controlled by the Chinese Communist Party”, violating rules that require organisations to exercise editorial oversight and not be controlled by political bodies.

Star China Media earned £100,000 of the fine for failing to comply with broadcasting rules over a Nov 2019 broadcast on CGTN about Simon Cheng, the former official at the British consulate in Hong Kong who was forced to “confess” to soliciting prostitution.

This was used by the Chinese broadcaster as an explanation for why he had disappeared for 15 days in Aug 2019, during which he said he was tortured, beaten and interrogated by Chinese secret police about Britain’s role in pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong.

Mr Cheng complained to Ofcom about unjust or unfair treatment and unwarranted infringement of privacy in connection with the obtaining of material included in the programme.

Star China Media earned the other £100,000 fine for items shown on CCTV in Jan 2016 and Feb 2018 on CGTN about Minhai Gui.

The Chinese broadcaster described him as a “fugitive” who had apparently voluntarily returned to China to serve a two-year prison sentence for a drink-driving offence. Footage of Mr Gui appearing to express regret for his actions was broadcast in 2016. In 2018, CGTN reported the arrest of Mr Gui in connection with another offence and showed footage of him describing his time since being released from prison.

The same year Mr Gui’s daughter Angela, then a Cambridge University student, complained to Ofcom on his behalf about “unjust or unfair treatment in the programmes and unwarranted infringement of privacy in connection with the obtaining of material”.

Ofcom upheld both complaints following its investigations.

As regards the Chinese broadcasters’ shortcomings, the regulator has said, “Among other things, CGTN failed to obtain their informed consent to be interviewed. … In addition, material facts which cast serious doubt on the reliability of their alleged confessions were left out of the programmes.”

CGTN is broadcast by China Central Television, which is supervised by the State Council and directly overseen by the Communist Party, the report noted.

Earlier, in Mar 2021, Ofcom fined Star China Media £225,000 for a CGTN broadcast of a false confession by a British citizen and former Reuters journalist, Peter Humphrey. He was drugged and forced to make a statement in 2013 while being held in a Chinese jail on corruption charges.

Undeterred by these setbacks, CGTN said last week that it had resumed broadcasting in Britain after taking advantage of a loophole to reappear on Freeview.


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