Statement regarding the removal of CGTN’s UK broadcasting licence

Statement issued by the No Cold War organising committee on 5 February 2021.

The removal of CGTN’s broadcast licence by Ofcom is a reprehensible act which runs against the interests of the British people. It is well known, and publicly acknowledged, that CGTN is a Chinese state broadcaster and viewers can therefore take this into account in judging its services and broadcasts. As a state television broadcaster, CGTN’s status is similar to that of the BBC, France Télévisions, NHK (Japan), KBS (Korea) and others.

The formal reasons given by Britain for removing CGTN’s licence are evidently specious. Ofcom states that holders of a broadcasting licence in Britain must not be controlled by political bodies. However, this rule is selectively applied. For example, the BBC, which routinely broadcasts criticism of China, is clearly controlled by a political body – the British state. Indeed, so tightly is the BBC controlled by the British state that since its earliest days its staff were directly vetted by MI5.

There are numerous examples of channels with clear political agendas – for example CNN has continuously broadcast programmes favouring the US Democratic Party and carried on political campaigns against both former President Trump and China. One may have different views on this content, but CNN is not prevented from broadcasting in Britain. The reality is that broadcasters with policies favourable or acceptable to the British government are allowed to broadcast, while those which are critical of it are not.

Ofcom’s action is not merely a clear violation of free speech, but it is directly dangerous. The world faces the threat of a New Cold War. Such a Cold War stands in the way of the global cooperation that is urgently needed to tackle the common problems faced by humanity: the pandemic, climate change, poverty and peace. At such a moment, it is crucial to build understanding between peoples and to accurately understand the positions of the chief actors in the global situation. Denying a voice to China’s CGTN cuts across all these goals.

The British authorities should therefore immediately reverse this decision to revoke CGTN’s broadcasting licence.