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China lashes out after U.K. media regulator strips TV license from Chinese state broadcaster

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By Jack Denton

The BBC and the Chinese state broadcaster are at the center of the most recent political clash between the U.K. and China, with Beijing floating “further measures” against the British Broadcasting Corporation and accusing it of being “fake news.”

The push back against the BBC comes a day after Ofcom, the U.K. media regulator, stripped China’s state broadcaster of its right to air in the U.K., after an investigation found that the channel was controlled by the Chinese Communist Party.

Ofcom said that Star China Media Limited, which held the license to broadcast China Global Television Network, or CGTN, in the U.K., didn’t have editorial responsibility over the outlet’s content. This is in contravention of U.K. law requiring broadcast licensees to have editorial autonomy over what they air. 

Plus: Biden’s China priorities could be challenged by the landmark new EU-China investment treaty

The regulator said that it also had to deny an application to transfer the license from Star China Media to another entity, called CGTN Corporation, for the same reason.

“We are unable to approve the application to transfer the license to China Global Television Network Corporation because it is ultimately controlled by the Chinese Communist Party, which isn’t permitted under U.K. broadcasting law,” Ofcom said.

In what was viewed as tit-for-tat retaliation against the U.K.’s state broadcaster—which has complete editorial independence from the U.K. government—Beijing lashed out against the BBC in a daily press conference on Friday, accusing it of having ideological motives.

A Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson accused the BBC of “fake news” after the broadcaster aired reports critical of the Chinese state. The BBC has reported extensively on the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic in China, as well as the state treatment of the Uighur Muslim minority in Xinjiang province.

China has been accused of repressing Uighurs in an ethic cleansing campaign, including the use of forced sterilization and forced labor. China denies these allegations.

“This is fake news with typical ideological bias, which has resulted in a vile impact,” said the Chinese foreign ministry on Friday , demanding a public apology and halt on what it views as “smearing” coverage of China.

Read more: Global call for U.N. to investigate China’s forced birth control for Uighurs

The BBC said in a statement responding to China’s accusations of “fake news” related to COVID-19 that it stands by “our accurate and fair reporting of events in China and totally reject these unfounded accusations of fake news or ideological bias.”

“The BBC is the world’s most trusted international news broadcaster, reporting to a global audience of more than 400 million people weekly without fear or favor and in accordance with our editorial standards,” the broadcaster added.

The Chinese foreign ministry said that China “reserves the right to take further measures,” against the BBC.

China hasn’t hesitated to take action against Western journalists in the past. In March 2020, China said it would expel journalists working for the New York Times, The Washington Post, and The Wall Street Journal, which is owned by Dow Jones, MarketWatch’s parent company. 

Ofcom’s decision is a major blow to CGTN, which selected London as one of its major global bases outside of China, alongside Washington, D.C., and Nairobi. The new CGTN bureau in London opened less than two years ago.

MarketWatch has reached out to the BBC for comment.

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