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  • BBC World News banned in China, Britain says step will only damage China’s reputation

    Published on February 13, 2021

    China has banned BBC World News on Friday from broadcasting in the country, according to a statement from China’s National Radio and Television Administration (NRTA). In an apparent retaliatory move, the announcement comes one week after British media regulator Ofcom withdrew broadcasting license for state-owned China Global Television Network (CGTN) in the United Kingdom. It comes against the backdrop of growing conflict between Beijing and Western governments over issues ranging from human rights to trade and the COVID-19 pandemic. The BBC said it was “disappointed” by the decision.


    China’s NRTA said that BBC World News reports about China were found to “seriously violate” broadcast guidelines, including “the requirement that news should be truthful and fair” and not “harm China’s national interests”. On February 4, China’s Foreign Ministry criticized the BBC for its coverage of China’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic, and dismissed its reports as “fake news.” China has also expressed its displeasure with BBC reporting on China’s actions on Uyghur and other ethnic Muslim minorities including alleged forced labour and sexual abuse of women in the western region of Xinjiang. The BBC has said it stands by its reporting as fair and accurate.


     
    It is unclear how much impact China’s ban of BBC World News will have in mainland China. BBC World was shown only on cable TV systems in hotels and apartment compounds for foreigners and some other businesses. Most Chinese people cannot view it but the ban has also spread to Hong Kong, where Beijing has increasingly been exerting control. On Friday, public broadcaster Radio Television Hong Kong, or RTHK, announced that it would suspend airing BBC World Service and BBC News Weekly.


     
    Britain’s Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said in a statement, “China’s decision to ban BBC World News in mainland China is an unacceptable curtailing of media freedom.” China has some of the most severe restrictions on media and internet freedoms across the globe and this latest step will only damage China’s reputation in the eyes of the world,” he said.


     
    The European Union on Saturday called on China to reverse its ban on the BBC World News television channel. The EU said in a statement that Beijing’s move further restricted “freedom of expression and access to information inside its borders,” and violated both the Chinese constitution and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The US State Department condemned the decision, calling it part of a wider campaign to suppress free media in China.


     
    It wasn’t clear whether BBC reporters in China would be affected. Last year, Beijing expelled foreign reporters for The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times amid disputes with the Trump administration and complaints over media criticism of the ruling Communist Party. Britain’s Ofcom, revoked the license for CGTN, China’s English-language satellite news channel, on Feb. 4, citing links to the Communist Party, among other reasons.
     

    A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson said Ofcom acted on “political grounds based on ideological bias.” Ofcom’s revocation of broadcasting license was a major blow for CGTN, which is part of a global effort by China to promote its views and challenge Western media narratives about the country, into which it has poured enormous resources. London was a major hub for CGTN operations in Europe.