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Fate of BBC’s China team hangs in balance after UK licence revocation

(ATF) The future of the BBC’s coverage of China was thrown in jeopardy on February 5, a day after Britain’s media regulator revoked a Chinese TV channel’s licence to operate in the UK.

Ofcom, which supervises television and radio in the UK, concluded that the Chinese Communist Party had ultimate editorial responsibility for CGTN, formerly known as CCTV-9, an international English-language news channel based in Beijing and nominally owned by state-owned broadcaster China Central Television.

“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.”

Foreign media in the Chinese capital were abuzz over the BBC’s future after the decision, with some journalists suggesting the British public broadcaster’s staff could be expelled or have their visa renewal applications denied.

OFFICIAL COMPLAINT

Beijing has already lodged an official complaint over the BBC’s Covid-19 coverage, saying it had lodged “stern representations” to the broadcaster over what it said was “fake news” and urged a public apology.

CGTN, in a statement on February 5, expressed its “disappointment in and strong opposition to” the Ofcom ruling, adding that that it complies with UK laws and regulations.

The foreign ministry has accused the BBC of running footage of an anti-terrorism training exercise, claiming it was the virus prevention department using violence to enforce the law.

The BBC said it stood by its “accurate and fair reporting of events in China and totally rejects these unfounded accusations of fake news or ideological bias”.

With reporting by Reuters

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George Russell

George Russell is a freelance writer and editor based in Hong Kong who has lived in Asia since 1996. His work has been published in the Financial Times, The Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg, New York Post, Variety, Forbes and the South China Morning Post.

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