Media watchdog Ofcom has stripped China Global Television Network (CGTN) of its right to broadcast in the UK, saying its licence holder did not have editorial responsibility for CGTN’s output, as required under UK broadcasting law -- adding that its owner is "ultimately controlled by the Chinese Communist Party".
The licence was held by Star China Media Limited (SCML) but Ofcom determined that it had no power over editorial output. SCML had tried to get around the issue by putting in an application to transfer its broadcasting license to another entity called China Global Television Network Corporation (CGNTC).
Ofcom said: "CGTN accepted that SCML did not control the channel and should no longer hold the licence.
"But it confirmed its intention to restructure to separate the CGTN division from China Central Television (CCTV) – which is ultimately controlled by the Chinese Communist Party and so disqualified from holding a UK broadcast licence – and apply to transfer the licence to an entity which did control the channel."
Ofcom added: "We were unable to properly assess [this application].
"Crucial information was missing from the application, while the restructure that CGTN had signalled... still has not, taken place. CGTN has since repeatedly failed to respond to important questions necessary to our assessment of its application to transfer the licence, or to offer any update on progress with its restructure."
The regulator added: "We are [also] 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".
Following careful consideration, taking account of all the facts and the broadcaster’s and audience’s rights to freedom of expression, we have decided it is appropriate to revoke the licence for CGTN to broadcast in the UK.
CGTN says it has 150 million followers globally. It has production centers in Nairobi, Washington D.C. and London. CGTN moved into its London offices in January 2018 with the aim of reporting “objective” news on European business and politics “from a Chinese perspective”. It was not immediately clear what the news will mean for its 100+ UK staff, who may be able to continue producing content for European markets.
Among its recent stories: "Chinese President #XiJinping and Miao ethnic villagers make local food huangba together" and "China denounces U.S. warship's sailing through Taiwan Straits".
The Stack has contacted CGTN for comment.
Ofcom said: "We have given CGTN significant time to come into compliance with the statutory rules. Those efforts have now been exhausted. We expect to conclude separate sanctions proceedings against CGTN for due impartiality and fairness and privacy breaches shortly.
The move comes eight months after UK policy makers pulled a U-turn on plans to allow China's Huawei limited access to 4G and 5G networks, saying components already installed by telcos must be ripped out by 2027. US-China trade restrictions have also hit UK-based firms like chipmaker Arm. Ofcom's move today is likely -- given precedent -- to result in a policy backlash from Beijing. More to follow.