UK

Ofcom fines China TV channel that counted Meghan Markle’s friend among among its presenters £200,000

Ofcom fines China TV channel that counted Meghan Markle’s friend among its presenters £200,000 over UK broadcasts because it is controlled by Chinese Communist Party

  • Watchdog imposed fine on Star China Media Limited – licence holder for CGTN
  • International news channel had licence to broadcast in UK revoked in February
  • Ofcom investigation concluded it was controlled by Chinese Communist Party
  • CGTN has been issued with two £100,000 fines over two separate complaints 

Ofcom has fined a TV channel that counted Meghan Markle‘s friend among its presenters £200,000 over its UK broadcasts because it is controlled by the Chinese Communist Party. 

The media regulator said it had imposed the fine on Star China Media Limited, the licence holder for the China Global Television Network (CGTN), for breaches of its rules around fairness and privacy.

CGTN, an international, English-language satellite news channel, had its licence to broadcast in the UK revoked in February this year.

An Ofcom investigation had concluded it was controlled by the Chinese Communist Party, which is not permitted under UK broadcasting law.

In total, CGTN has been issued with two £100,000 fines relating to two separate complaints about unfair treatment of individuals in programmes broadcast on CGTN – and CCTV as it was formerly known – between 2016 and 2019.

Ofcom said it had imposed the fine on Star China Media Limited, the licence holder for the China Global Television Network (CGTN), which counted Meghan Markle’s friend James Chau (both pictured above) among its presenters

Both complaints related to how programming treated individuals and their alleged confessions to crimes.

In both cases, Ofcom said it had found that CGTN had failed to take ‘appropriate steps to satisfy itself that material facts had not been presented, disregarded or omitted in a way that was unfair’ to the individuals involved.

The watchdog previously launched an investigation into CGTN following broadcasts which showed British journalist Peter Humphrey appearing to confess to a criminal offence, and reported his conviction and an apology.

Mr Humphrey, 64, was jailed for more than two years by a court in Shanghai in 2014 in connection with a corruption case involving pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline.

The two reports from CCTV identified Mr Humphrey but his face was blurred. The 2013 footage was broadcast across Chinese media as well as in Britain. 

TV presenter James Chau, a Cambridge-educated journalist who considers the Duchess of Sussex as his friend, solemnly introduced the footage to viewers.

The watchdog previously launched an investigation into CGTN following broadcasts which showed British journalist Peter Humphrey (pictured) appearing to confess to a criminal offence, and reported his conviction and an apology

The watchdog previously launched an investigation into CGTN following broadcasts which showed British journalist Peter Humphrey (pictured) appearing to confess to a criminal offence, and reported his conviction and an apology

But according to Mr Humphrey, the entire broadcast was a lie.

The investigator, who was arrested with his wife and business partner Yu Yingzeng while probing alleged corruption at pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline, insisted that the footage masked the truth of his ordeal.

Mr Humphrey claimed that he and his wife are innocent and the so-called ‘confession’ was a sham – confected from doctored footage captured after he had been plied with sedatives.

Speaking previously from his home in Surrey, Mr Humphrey told The Mail on Sunday: ‘It was a travesty of my human rights.

Mr Humphrey (pictured during a broadcast) claimed that he and his wife are innocent and the so-called 'confession' was a sham ¿ confected from doctored footage captured after he had been plied with sedatives

Mr Humphrey (pictured during a broadcast) claimed that he and his wife are innocent and the so-called ‘confession’ was a sham – confected from doctored footage captured after he had been plied with sedatives

‘I was stripped of my dignity, drugged, caged and had my words twisted to create the impression I confessed. But I never did and I never will.

‘The grief and humiliation I suffered was overwhelming. During that forced confession and the two years I endured in prison, they set out to crush my spirit. I’m left with scars that are still healing.’

After his release, Mr Humphrey complained to Ofcom, alleging unfair treatment and breach of privacy in two news reports on the case aired on CCTV, which has since been renamed CGTN. 

The penalty comes after Ofcom also fined the broadcaster £225,000 in March for breaching fairness, privacy and due impartiality rules.

CGTN: The Chinese state-owned broadcaster’s controversial reports 

The China Global Television Network has often been criticised for allegedly sharing misinformation and making false allegations against opponents of the Chinese government. 

CGTN’s most high-profile controversies include: 

Peter Humphrey 

Ofcom launched an investigation into CGTN – previously CCTV – following broadcasts which showed former British journalist Peter Humphrey appearing to confess to a criminal offence, and reported his conviction and an apology.

Mr Humphrey, 64, was jailed for more than two years by a court in Shanghai in 2014, in connection with a corruption case involving pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline. 

The two reports from CCTV identified Mr Humphrey but his face was blurred. The 2013 footage was broadcast across Chinese media as well as – astonishingly – in Britain. 

China’s star TV presenter James Chau, a Cambridge-educated journalist who counts the Duchess of Sussex among his friends, solemnly introduced the shocking footage to viewers.

But according to Mr Humphrey, the entire broadcast was a lie.  

Hong Kong protests

The network has previously been investigated by Ofcom for its coverage of the Hong Kong protests, which took place in 2019 until late 2020. 

The media watchdog said the channel often focused on violence by protesters against police officers while ignoring attacks by the authorities on members of the public.

It said the output echoed the views of the pro-Beijing Hong Kong government without providing sufficient balance from those with alternative views, the Guardian reported. 

However, CGTN claimed it was ‘particularly challenging’ to air pro-democracy views on the Hong Kong protests because those demonstrating were reluctant to talk on camera.     

Simon Cheng

In November 2019,  CGTN aired a video of a UK consular employee in captivity appearing to ‘confess’ to consorting with prostitutes.

A week later, he filed a complaint with Ofcom. 

Nick Pollard

In September 2019, the British TV executive resigned from his post as consultant and advisor to CGTN.

He explained he was leaving due to CGTN’s failure to comply with Ofcom’s rules on impartiality regarding coverage of the Hong Kong protests. 

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