CGTN, the 24-hour English language news channel with a base in London, has had its licence to broadcast in the UK revoked by Ofcom.
The move, which will stop the channel being available on Sky and Freesat, follows an investigation by broadcast regulator Ofcom.
Ofcom found that the channel’s ownership contravenes UK broadcasting laws, which state that companies holding broadcast licences must have editorial oversight of the programmes shown. Additionally, broadcast licences can’t be controlled by political bodies.
In its investigation, Ofcom concluded that the company listed as the holder of the licence, Star China Media Limited, has no control over the licence. Editorial control was found to be with China’s state broadcaster CCTV, which in turn is controlled by China’s Communist Party.
As a result, Star China Media is, under UK broadcasting rules, an unlawful holder of the licence. Behind the scenes, Ofcom has said it has given CGTN “sufficient time” to come into compliance with broadcasting legislation. A licence transfer request, moving control of the licence from Star China Media to China Global Television Network Corporation (CGTNC), was declined by Ofcom due to missing “crucial information” in the application.
Separate investigations that could lead to sanctions are still taking place. Ofcom is investigating breaches of due impartiality and privacy rules.
CGTN in the UK
CGTN was previously called ‘CCTV News’ until the end of 2017 and was available in HD on Sky and Freesat.
Last year, it launched a new UK hub in Chiswick, London, from where CGTN broadcasts UK-specific news broadcasts. CGTN presenters include the former CNN/BBC World/Al Jazeera host Stephen Cole and ex-BBC business reporter John Terrett.
As of early afternoon, CGTN’s news output is continuing as normal with no reference to Ofcom’s ruling, although UK viewers can no longer see the channel.
CGTN stopped broadcasting on Sky in the Republic of Ireland in December. This was due to changes in post-Brexit broadcasting rules, which means its (now revoked) UK licence isn’t valid in Ireland.
There are concerns that CGTN’s UK ban could lead to retaliatory action in China. Shortly after Ofcom’s verdict was published, CGTN reported the BBC had been accused of fake news. It reported that China had “lodged solemn representations to BBC’s Beijing branch over its false reports about the COVID-19 pandemic in the country”. BBC output has frequently been censured in China, with blank screens appearing during news reports about the country.
Analysis | This is the latest intervention by Ofcom against foreign news channels. Russia’s RT has previously been the focus of Ofcom interventions. The channel was fined for breaching due impartially rules in the wake of the Salisbury incident. However, RT has so far convinced Ofcom that editorial control is with the broadcast licence holder and that it is not controlled by the Russian state. RT does however receive funding from the Kremlin. The first such channel to lose its licence was Iran’s Press TV, which was swiftly thrown off UK television platforms as a result, but continues to broadcast elsewhere in the world and via the internet. The move to ban CGTN may be seen as politically charged. It comes in the wake of a souring of relations between the two countries after Huawei equipment was banned from UK 5G networks.
Last updated 12:42
[Ofcom | OBV]