Beijing accuses Ofcom of being ‘manipulated by anti-China forces’ after TV licence is revokedFebruary 5, 2021
Chinese state broadcaster CGTN pushed back on Ofcom’s decision to revoke its licence to broadcast in the UK, accusing the regulator of being “manipulated by extreme right-wing organisations and anti-China forces”.
The state media outlet said in a statement that it was disappointed by the decision, and that its broadcasts over 18 years in the UK were a public service.
On Thursday, Ofcom revoked CGTN’s license after finding it was “ultimately controlled by the Chinese Communist Party”, violating rules that require organisations broadcasting in the UK to exercise editorial oversight over programmes shown, and not to be controlled by political bodies.
The decision can be challenged in British courts, though CGTN has not said whether it has plans to do so. While CGTN is being pulled from British airwaves, the organisation is still able to publish content on Western social media, and on its own website.
Western politicians, including in the UK, have increasingly raised concerns over disinformation and espionage risks posed by the expansion of Chinese state media overseas.
Indeed over the past year, three Chinese people understood to be intelligence officers for China’s Ministry of State Security arrived in the UK under the false pretext of working for state media outlets, the Telegraph has revealed.
China has invested billions of dollars in building its state media presence overseas, with state-controlled outlets including CGTN, Xinhua, and China Daily establishing bureaus and broadcast hubs in major cities, including London.
Efforts picked up pace after leader Xi Jinping in 2016 encouraged state media “to tell China’s stories well”.
Chinese state media, government officials, and embassies have also proliferated on Western social media seeking to present China’s narrative on a range of global issues from human rights abuses in Xinjiang to the origins of the coronavirus pandemic.
Some platforms, such as Twitter, have begun labelling accounts as “China state-affiliated media” or “China government account”.
In January, Twitter locked the account for China’s US embassy for a tweet that defended Beijing’s policy toward Muslim Uighurs in Xinjiang.
Such material published by Chinese state media is typically aimed at audiences outside of China, as platforms like Twitter and Facebook are banned within the country by government censors, which tightly control news and information.
CGTN is an English-language broadcaster part of a family of channels linked to China Central Television (CCTV) headquartered in Beijing and overseen by the country’s cabinet, supervised by the ruling Communist Party.
Ofcom is expected to “conclude separate sanctions proceedings against CGTN for due impartiality and fairness and privacy breaches shortly”, the regulator said in a statement.