French regulator called on to withdraw licence allowing CGTN to broadcast from London

Chinese state broadcaster transmits from Chiswick studio despite Ofcom revoking UK licence last year

France’s media regulator is under pressure to withdraw a licence that allows the Chinese state broadcaster to beam its programmes across Europe from a studio in west London.

Ofcom revoked the organisation’s licence to transmit in the UK last year but the China Global Television Network (CGTN) was able to continue broadcasting following authorisation from the French authority.

The Chinese network has produced English-language programmes, including those presented by a former BBC Wales Today presenter, from its European hub in Chiswick since 2018.

When Ofcom revoked its UK licence, CGTN was able to apply to the regulator in France, the Conseil supérieur de l’audiovisuel (CSA), due to a contract it has held since 2016 with the French satellite company Eutelsat.

Broadcasting has continued from the London studio, one of its hubs alongside those in Beijing, Washington DC and the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, although the content is only currently available in the UK via the internet.

The French regulator had said when licensing the Chinese network that it would be “particularly attentive” in ensuring that CGTN, previously known as CCTV, provided independent and honest reporting and avoided inciting violence or hatred.

Peter Dahlin, from Safeguard Defenders, the NGO whose complaint led Ofcom to act, said there were multiple grounds for the CSA to now withdraw the organisation’s licence.

He said: “We believe the French CSA, its regulator, needs to take responsibility for its failure to safeguard pan-European airwaves and launch a formal investigation into the allegations which have led other regulators to take action.

“Due to the system in Europe, despite having lost its license to air in the UK, CGTN is now using its French equivalent to continue airing across Europe.

“This is even more important as both CCTV and CGTN are being used extensively to justify mass incarcerations of Uyghurs in the Xinjiang region, which may amount to crimes against humanity.”

On Monday, CGTN’s flagship English-language programme, Asia Today, did not mention the recent protests in China but instead led on the visit to Beijing of Mongolia’s president, Ukhnaagiin Khürelsükh.

Safeguard Defenders has highlighted multiple examples of the Chinese network broadcasting forced confessions, including that of British citizen Peter Humphrey and his wife, Yu Yingzeng. Humphrey, a former Reuters journalist, was paraded on CCTV in 2013 after being arrested for allegedly buying and selling personal information in his role as a corporate investigator.

In a letter of complaint to the CSA, Safeguard Defenders has claimed that the Chinese state network had repeatedly breached French law and article 6 on the right to a fair trial in the European convention on human rights.

Ofcom revoked CGTN’s licence in 2021 after concluding, following a lengthy investigation, that the network was ultimately controlled by the Chinese Communist party.

CGTN is also facing losing its broadcast licence in Canada. The Canadian Radio Television and Telecommunications Commission warned the organisation last December that it had “significant concerns”.

The regulator gave CGTN until March this year to respond to claims that it has failed to provide balanced coverage that serves to “safeguard, enrich and strengthen the cultural, political, social and economic fabric of Canada”. No action has yet been taken.

CGTN did not respond to a request for comment.

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Daniel Boffey Chief reporter

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