BBC World News Blocked in China Following CGTN Ban in U.K.

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The British Broadcasting Corp.’s World News has been taken off the air in China following the U.K.’s removal of Chinese state-backed broadcaster CGTN’s license last week.

BBC reports on China violated regulations that news bulletins should be “truthful and fair,” China’s National Radio and Television Administration said in a statement on Friday in Beijing. The U.K.’s Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said in a Twitter post that the decision represented an “unacceptable curtailing of media freedom” and that it would damage China’s reputation.

“We are disappointed that the Chinese authorities have decided to take this course of action,” a BBC spokeswoman said by email. “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 favor.”

The situation escalated when Hong Kong’s public broadcaster RTHK said in a statement it would suspend the relay of BBC World Service and BBC News Weekly from 11 p.m. on Friday, citing the decision by China’s National Radio and Television Administration as the reason for its move.

Following the decision by U.K. regulator Ofcom to revoke CGTN’s license last week, Chinese officials had complained about the BBC’s reporting on the Covid-19 pandemic, and asked the broadcaster to apologize. The BBC said at the time that it rejected “unfounded accusations of fake news or ideological bias.” The London-based BBC has recently published and broadcast reports critical of President Xi Jinping’s government on censorship and camps in the country’s Xinjiang region.

The NRTA will not accept the BBC’s broadcast application for another year, China’s embassy in the U.K. said in a statement on Friday.

The BBC’s “serious violation of broadcasting rules on accuracy and impartiality has undermined China’s national interests and ethnic unity and failed to meet the requirements for overseas channels to broadcast in China’s mainland,” in said.

A spokesperson of the European Union External Action Service called for the ban on the BBC to be removed, adding it is the latest move by China “restricting freedom of expression and access to information inside its borders.” In response, a spokesperson of Chinese Mission to the EU said that NRTA’s decision is “entirely legitimate and lawful,” adding that “double standards shall not be applied to fighting disinformation.”

Ofcom said it removed CGTN’s British license because the holder didn’t have editorial control. CGTN had asked for its license to be transferred to an entity called China Global Television Network Corp., but “crucial information” was missing from the application. The new owner would have been disqualified from holding a license as it would be controlled by a body ultimately directed by the Chinese Communist Party, Ofcom said.

CGTN also lost permission to broadcast in Germany because of the removal of its U.K. license, said a spokesman for the media authority in the state of North Rhine-Westphalia on Friday. The authority informed broadcasters in the state that they have to stop CGTN programming, he said.

Tensions between China and the U.K. have been rising. Last year, Prime Minister Boris Johnson banned Shenzhen telecommunications company Huawei Technologies Co. from Britain’s next-generation wireless networks amid security concerns.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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