Ofcom has ruled that China’s state broadcaster breached the UK’s broadcasting rules by presenting biased coverage of the Hong Kong protests in an increasing diplomatic row.
Ofcom, the British broadcaster regulator, found that China’s state-owned CGTN news network, which has its European headquarters in West London, had been in “serious failure of compliance” of impartiality standards during its coverage of the Hong Kong protests.
The network could face fines reaching millions of pounds or even have its UK licence revoked in the wake of the findings which came from four World Today episodes and one China24 episode.
A spokesperson for Ofcom is quoted as saying: “Our investigations found that CGTN failed to preserve due impartiality in five news programmes. The reports, which covered the protests in Hong Kong and related developments, did not give due weight to a wide range of voices on this matter of major political controversy.
“We have told CGTN that we are minded to consider imposing a statutory sanction for these breaches. The broadcaster now has the opportunity to make representations to us, which we’ll consider before proceeding further.”
Star China Media, which licences CGTN, had told Ofcom that pro-democracy activists had not wanted to speak to the network or other Mandarin-language channels during the protests.
They claimed one of their reporters had approached “over 50” protestors but “most of them declined”.
However, Ofcom said that CGTN, which holds a UK broadcasting licence, had either not included or not given “due weight” to “an appropriately wide range of significant viewpoints” during their coverage of the protests.
Ofcom’s finding comes as the regulator is also investigating CGTN for other potential breachers, including a suspected forced televised confession from Britsh private investigator and former journalist Peter Humphrey.
Humphrey was arrested with his American wife, Yu Yingzeng, in China 2013 and charged with illegally trading personal information.
The pair later appeared on a CGTN broadcast publicly confessing to their crimes.
Ofcom confirmed: “We are continuing to investigate fairness and privacy complaints about programmes on CGTN, some of which relate to alleged forced confessions.”
The investigations are ongoing.
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