China’s state broadcaster CGTN to return to the UK after Ofcom acknowledged CGTN’s right to resume broadcasting under French jurisdiction.
CGTN said on Saturday morning it welcomed Ofcom’s acknowledgement that under the European Convention of Transfrontier Television (ECTT), the channel would be allowed back in the UK. As a result, preparations are underway to get the channel back on UK TV screens within weeks.
Ofcom had revoked CGTN’s licence in February after it fell foul of UK broadcasting rules. Under UK law, broadcasters cannot be controlled directly by a political entity. Following the licence revocation, Ofcom also found CGTN guilty of breaching additional broadcasting rules over due impartiality.
CGTN reacted to the revocation by successfully applying for a licence from the French media authority CSA. Under ECTT rules, the French licence is valid in all countries that have have signed the European Convention. This is established under the Council of Europe, a separate entity that pre-dates the EU.
Unlike Ofcom, France’s CSA permits state-controlled broadcasters. However it does actively monitor and sanction channels for breaches of fairness and impartiality.
The CSA stipulated in March that CGTN could be licenced in France, but it must be uplinked from France to satellite by a French provider. CGTN is currently uplinked to satellite in Europe via France’s Globecast.
Return to the UK
For a return to the UK, CGTN will need Globecast to uplink its channel to one of the three SES-Astra satellites at 28 degrees East. These carry all Sky and Freesat services (Astra 2E, 2F, 2G). Sky and Freesat will need to agree new terms with CGTN for re-inclusion on their channel lists.
CGTN’s broadcasts online have been unaffected by the ongoing licensing issue. CGTN has also continued broadcast on European satellite (Astra 19.2 and Eutelsat Hotbird) throughout the last two months.
Although Ofcom has acknowledged rights under the ECTT, the move is a blow to the regulator and the Government. It provides a clear loop-hole that other state sponsored broadcaster may follow in the future. It also means the UK is unable to take full control over which channels can be broadcast here.