France’s media regulator is under pressure to withdraw a license that allows China’s public broadcaster to broadcast its programs across Europe from a studio in west London.
Ofcom last year revoked the organization’s license to broadcast in the UK, but the China Global Television Network (CGTN) was able to continue broadcasting after permission from French authorities.
The Chinese network has been producing programs in English, including those presented by a former BBC Wales Today presenter, from its European hub in Chiswick since 2018.
When Ofcom revoked its UK license, CGTN was able to appeal to the French regulator, the Conseil Supérieur de l’Audiovisuel (CSA), over a contract it has held since 2016 with French satellite company Eutelsat.
The broadcast continued from the London studio, one of its hubs alongside those in Beijing, Washington DC and the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, although content is currently only available in the UK via Internet.
The French regulator had said when granting the license to the Chinese network that it would be “particularly careful” to ensure that CGTN, formerly known as CCTV, provided independent and honest reporting and avoided incite violence or hatred.
Peter Dahlin, of Safeguard Defenders, the NGO whose complaint prompted Ofcom to act, said there were several grounds for the CSA to now withdraw the organisation’s licence.
He said: “We believe that the French CSA, its regulator, must take responsibility for its failure to protect the pan-European airwaves and launch a formal investigation into the allegations which led other regulators to take action.
“Due to the system in Europe, despite losing its UK broadcast license, CGTN is now using its French equivalent to continue broadcasting across Europe.
“This is all the more important as CCTV and CGTN are widely used to justify the mass incarcerations of Uyghurs in the Xinjiang region, which may amount to crimes against humanity.”
On Monday, CGTN’s flagship English-language program, Asia Today, did not discuss the recent protests in China but instead focused on the visit to Beijing of Mongolian President Ukhnaagiin Khürelsükh.
Safeguard Defenders highlighted several examples of the Chinese network broadcasting coerced confessions, including that of British citizen Peter Humphrey and his wife, Yu Yingzeng. Humphrey, a former Reuters reporter, was paraded on CCTV in 2013 after he was 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 claimed that the Chinese state network had repeatedly violated French law and Article 6 on the right to a fair trial of the European Convention on Human Rights.
Ofcom revoked CGTN’s license in 2021 after concluding, following a lengthy investigation, that the network was ultimately controlled by the Chinese Communist Party.
CGTN also risks losing its broadcast license in Canada. The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission warned the body last December that it had “significant concerns”.
The regulator has given CGTN until March this year to respond to allegations 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.