Broadcasting regulator Ofcom has revoked the China Global Television Network’s (CGTN) licence to air its programming in the UK according to a statement issued Thursday.
An Ofcom investigation found that the license used by CGTN had been wrongfully held by Star China Media Ltd.
In a statement, Ofcom reiterated that “licence holders cannot be controlled by political bodies.”
Star China Media Limited (SCML) was found not to have editorial control or responsibility for CGTN’s programming and therefore did not meet the requirement to hold a broadcasting license.
Its investigation found that CGTN is controlled by CCTV which, as part of the China Media Group, is “controlled by the Chinese Communist Party and therefore disqualified from holding a broadcast licence under UK.”
The regulator claims that it was unable to transfer the license to CGTN directly as “crucial information was missing from the application” adding that even if said information had been provided, the fact that CGTNC is controlled by the Chinese Communist Party would preclude it from holding a licence in the UK anyway.
“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,” a spokesperson for Ofcom said in a statement.
SCML was found to be the distributor but not “the producer” of the service and none of CGTN’s key stakeholders and senior editorial personnel were found to be employed by SCML, Ofcom said.
The broadcaster will likely also face separate sanctions over its coverage.
“We expect to conclude separate sanctions proceedings against CGTN for due impartiality and fairness and privacy breaches shortly,” the statement said.
The regulator acknowledged that “the revocation of a broadcast licence is a significant interference with a broadcaster’s right to freedom of expression” and claims it afforded CGTN sufficient time to come into compliance but failed to do so after a September 2020 application failed.
Ofcom concluded its statement by criticising CGTN’s coverage of the Hong Kong protests which were found to be in “serious breach” of fairness and privacy rules, for which it is now considering the sanctions it alleges are separate from Thursday’s decision to revoke the agency’s broadcasting license.
CGTN has yet to issue a statement in response to the Ofcom’s decision.
Meanwhile, the Chinese Foreign Ministry claimed it had made “stern representations” to to the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) over what it described as “fake news” coverage of the Covid-19 pandemic and called on the British state broadcaster to apologise.
A spokesperson said the BBC had “linked the pandemic to politics” and “rehashed theories about covering up by China,” shortly after the Ofcom decision was announced.