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U.K. Strips Chinese Broadcaster's License, Citing Communist Party Ties

President Xi Jinping of China is seen on a CGTN archive program as it plays on a computer monitor in London. The U.K.'s Ofcom says Star China Media Limited, which holds the license for China Global Television Network (CGTN) doesn't have day-to-day editorial control over the channel, which is against its rules.
President Xi Jinping of China is seen on a CGTN archive program as it plays on a computer monitor in London. The U.K.'s Ofcom says Star China Media Limited, which holds the license for China Global Television Network (CGTN) doesn't have day-to-day editorial control over the channel, which is against its rules.

The U.K.'s Office of Communications revoked a Chinese media company's right to broadcast Thursday, after finding that the license holder had no editorial control over the state-owned China Global Television Network. The agency says the Chinese Communist Party is ultimately in charge of the satellite news channel.

The regulator, commonly known as Ofcom, says there are two main problems with Star China Media Limited, which holds the license for the English-language China Global Television Network, or CGTN.

First, the company has no editorial oversight over the programs on the channel – a violation of U.K. broadcasting laws. Because of that, Ofcom says, SCML was acting as a distributor, not as a content provider.

In addition, U.K. law bars broadcast license holders from being controlled by political bodies, ruling out a proposed transfer of the license to another Chinese entity, the China Global Television Network Corporation. That company, which makes decisions such as selecting which stories appear on the channel, "is ultimately controlled by the Chinese Communist Party," Ofcom said.

Ofcom faulted CGTN for two major breaches of U.K. policies last year. In one case, the regulator said the channel had not been impartial in its coverage of the Hong Kong protests of late 2019.

In another finding, Ofcom sided with U.K. citizen Peter Humphrey, a private investigator who said the channel was wrong to air what he said was a forced confession. Humphrey had been detained while looking into corporate fraud, accused of illegally obtaining information.

Speaking to Frank Langfitt, NPR's London correspondent, Humphrey said he was happy with today's decision.

"Thank goodness, finally, this license has been taken away," said Humphrey, who now lives in the UK. "Considering the kind of brutal human rights violations that CGTN has been involved with, extracting and packaging forced confessions from prisoners held under torture in China who've never been in front of a judge, I just think that we should have no organization like that on our soil."

Ofcom still has three other investigations focused on fairness and privacy protections surrounding CGTN content.

The regulator also said it's still weighing possible sanctions to apply over those individual cases, separate from the decision to pull the news outlet's license.

"We've provided CGTN with numerous opportunities to come into compliance, but it has not done so," an Ofcom spokesperson said in a statement about the decision. "We now consider it appropriate to withdraw the license for CGTN to broadcast in the U.K."

The China Global Television Network is the international arm of China Central Television (CCTV), airing in more than 160 countries. The satellite channel was previously known as CCTV News, but it launched under its present name at the end of 2016. It has headquarters in Beijing and production centers in London, Washington, D.C., and Nairobi, according to its website.

CGTN was included in a roundup of Chinese state media outlets that the U.S. designated last March as "foreign missions" of the Chinese Communist Party. The Trump administration ordered the outlets to limit their U.S.-based staff to 100 or fewer Chinese nationals each, setting off a retaliatory move from Beijing.

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