On February 4th, UK broadcasting regulator Ofcom revoked the transmission licence of China’s CGTN news channel alleging that it had not held a lawful licence.
February 11th saw the Chinese retaliate. A statement from China’s National Radio and Television Administration (NRTA) said BBC World News’ reporting on China had “seriously violated” regulations, including that news should be “truthful and fair”.
The Chinese regulator said that the BBC had harmed China’s national interests and no longer met its requirements for foreign channels in China, and would be banned for a year.
BBC World News is not widely available to Chinese viewers, although is carried by some international hotels. UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab described the move as being unacceptable. “China has some of the most severe restrictions on media and internet freedoms across the globe, and this latest step will only damage China’s reputation in the eyes of the world,” he added.
Hong Kong’s RTHK government broadcaster has also removed the BBC channel’s carriage.
The BBC’s statement said: “The BBC is the world’s most trusted international news broadcaster and reports on stories from around the world fairly, impartially and without fear or favour,” it said.
However, the decisions echo a broadcast made in 1980 (Death of a Princess) which led to the cancellation of a BBC contract with Orbit Television for an Arabic-language BBC World news channel. Orbit, which was financed by senior royals in Saudi Arabia, pulled the plug on the concept, and setting back the BBC’s expansion over the Middle East by many years.
CGTN, along with other Chinese channels, remains on Eutelsat’s Hot Bird satellite.