Eutelsat explains non-removal of China’s CGTN

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Eutelsat has explained why it cannot itself remove China’s controversial news channel CGTN which has been criticised by many countries, including the UK’s Ofcom regulator.

China Global Television Network (CGTN), on April 10th, welcomed the acknowledgement of Ofcom that CGTN’s right to broadcast in Europe falls under French jurisdiction, which perhaps paves the way for its return to broadcasting in the UK after being taken off the air two months ago.

CGTN said it is in contact with its broadcast licensee to verify the relevant information.

“We applaud and welcome the UK regulatory authorities’ return to objectivity and impartiality,” said CGTN via a spokesperson.

However, Eutelsat says that it has a transmission contract with CGTN totalling 6 channels from Eutelsat’s powerful Hotbird location and says it is not possible for it to unilaterally remove any Chinese channel from its portfolio of some 6000 channels.

April 12th reportedly saw at least 13 people – allegedly victims of Chinese oppression – sign an open letter to Eutelsat and requesting that Paris-based Eutelsat take the Chinese channels down.

“In the case of non-European channels, the responsibility for controlling their content rests with the regulator of the country where the uplink is located or upon which the utilised satellite capacity depends. As regards the broadcasting of CGTN in Europe, this responsibility therefore falls to the CSA (Conseil supérieur de l’audiovisuel) which also has the ability to take legal action,” stated Eutelsat.

“Complaints against CGTN are to be examined by the CSA [and] Eutelsat will immediately comply with any subsequent decision by the CSA or the French courts, as it does systematically,” Eutelsat added.

There’s another important factor as far as Eutelsat’s action is concerned. The Chinese CIC sovereign wealth fund is Eutelsat’s 3rd-largest shareholder.

Investment bank Exane/BNPP, in a note of April 13th, says it doubts whether the French regulator will take any action especially given France’s attitude to free speech. The bank does not expect there to be financial impact on Eutelsat from the complaint.


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