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UK revokes license of China's CGTN broadcaster

February 4, 2021

British broadcasting regulators have determined that content carried on China's state-owned CGTN is "controlled" by the Chinese Communist Party.

Members of the Chinese Communist party sit behind a desk bearing the CGTN logo
Chinese Communist Party officials appear at CGTN's 2016 revampImage: picture-alliance/Photoshot/Ju Peng

UK officials stripped China Global Television Network's (CGTN) license to broadcast in the European country on Thursday after an investigation determined that the English-language network lacks editorial independence.

Chinese state-run media outlets tailored for international audiences have come under pressure in recent years over concerns they propagate an exclusively pro-Beijing narrative. 

The UK's Office of Communications, Ofcom, criticized the media company holding CGTN's UK license, Star China Media Limited (SCML). The entity "has no editorial control over its programs" as required by UK law, Ofcom said.

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The regulator added that the state-owned CGTN was "ultimately controlled by the Chinese Communist Party."

Investigation follows airing of confession

Ofcom started to investigate the Chinese network following several complaints over fairness and accuracy. 

A major part of the investigation involved CGTN airing a forced confession in 2013 from a British private investigator while he was in Chinese jail for "illegally gathering information."

The man subsequently filed a fairness and privacy complaint with Ofcom over the CGTN broadcast. Ofcom said in the statement it would begin "separate sanctions proceedings" against CGTN over the fairness and privacy breaches. 

China lashes out at BBC

Shortly after Ofcom announced CGTN's revocation, China's Foreign Ministry said it had lodged a complaint with the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) about what it called "fake news" coverage of the coronavirus in China, the Reuters news agency reported. 

The ministry said a BBC report in late January "linked the pandemic to politics" and "rehashed" theories of a Chinese cover-up early in the pandemic. It accused the BBC, which the UK's public broadcaster, of "harboring ideological bias" and "smearing China."

There has not yet been an official response to CGTN losing its UK license. 

wmr/dj (AP, Reuters, dpa)