China Global Television Network
TypeState media
BrandingCGTN
Country
China
AvailabilityGlobal
HeadquartersCCTV Headquarters, Beijing
OwnerState Council of the People's Republic of China
(China Media Group)
ParentChina Central Television
Established2016
Launch date
31 December 2016, 04:00 London Time/12:00 Beijing Time
Official website
cgtn.com
China Global Television Network
Simplified Chinese中国国际电视台
Traditional Chinese中國國際電視台
Literal meaningChina International Television Station
Alternative Chinese name
Simplified Chinese中国环球电视网
Traditional Chinese中國環球電視網
Literal meaningChina Global Television Network

China Global Television Network (CGTN) is the international division of state media outlet China Central Television (CCTV), headquartered in Beijing, China. CGTN broadcasts six news and general interest channels in six languages.[1] CGTN is registered under the State Council of the People's Republic of China and is under the control of the Propaganda Department of the Chinese Communist Party.[1][2] General Secretary of the Chinese Communist Party Xi Jinping described CGTN's goal as being to "tell China's story well."[3]

Media regulators, journalist advocacy groups, and others have accused CGTN of broadcasting propaganda and disinformation on behalf of the Chinese government, and airing forced confessions.[3][4][5][6][7]

History

CGTN grew out of CCTV's all-English channel, known as CCTV-9 or CCTV International, launched in 2000 and renamed CCTV News in 2010.[8] Channels in other languages were launched during the mid and late 2000s. In December 2016, the six non-Chinese language television channels under CCTV International were rebranded to bear the CGTN name.[3] By 2022, CGTN had built a network of social media influencers, according to the Associated Press.[9]

Observers have noted that the "aim [of CGTN] is to influence public opinion overseas in order to nudge foreign governments into making policies favourable towards China’s Communist party" through subtle means.[10] Researchers Thomas Fearon and Usha M. Rodrigues argued that CGTN has a "dichotomous role as a credible media competing for audience attention on the world stage, and a vital government propaganda organ domestically."[11]

According to James Palmer at Foreign Policy, the contrasting aims of RT (formerly Russia Today) and CGTN, "mirrors wider strategies: Moscow wants chaos it can exploit, while Beijing wants a stable world order—on its terms".[12] While RT doesn't mind whether it goes to the far-left or the far-right, Chinese state media is permitted to "act from a very narrow, officially approved scope, and the risk of the political extremes is too much," according to journalist Hilton Yip.[13] On the contrary to CGTN's investments in studios and numerous overseas bureaus, "the actual content is a mix of brutally tedious propaganda and bland documentaries. The audience is always the bosses in Beijing, not the average viewer overseas".[13] Yip also noted the growing disillusionment of journalists in China who "are allowed to do little more than parrot the official line", citing a viral video of a journalist rolling her eyes at another reporter's softball question during a ministerial press conference, which "seemed to speak for many in the country who are tired of the charade that local media has become".[13]

Despite a decade of overseas expansion, the redoubling of efforts by CGTN, and to an extension other state media, to push the party's theories and principles abroad is at odds with boosting China's overseas image.[14] CGTN, along with other Chinese state media outlets, is still widely regarded as "editorially biased and full of propaganda, and they still struggle to attract large audiences", particularly in the age of widespread internet use with social media and nontraditional forms of media where the public has become "more averse to clumsy state-run propaganda than ever".[13]

Channels

Name Language Launch date Previous name
CGTN.svg
CGTN
English 20 September 1997[15]
  • CCTV-9
  • CCTV-NEWS
CGTN Espanol.png
CGTN-Español
Spanish 1 October 2007[15]
  • CCTV-E
  • CCTV-Español
CGTN - français.png
CGTN-Français
French 1 October 2007[15]
  • CCTV-F
  • CCTV-Français
CGTN arabic.png
CGTN-العربية
Arabic 25 July 2009 CCTV-العربية
CGTN Russian.png
CGTN-Русский
Russian 10 September 2009 CCTV-Русский
CGTN Documentary logo.png
CGTN Documentary
English 1 January 2011 CCTV-9 Documentary

Controversies

Bias, censorship, and disinformation

Further information: CGTN (TV channel) § Criticism, and Censorship in China

Critics have accused CGTN of broadcasting misinformation and making false allegations against opponents of the Chinese government.[2] The network has been investigated and censured by Britain's Ofcom for biased coverage of the 2019–20 Hong Kong protests and the airing of forced confessions.[4][16][17][18][19] CGTN has been characterized as a vehicle for government propaganda and disinformation campaigns by Reporters Without Borders, BBC, and other sources.[2][3][20][21][22]

Despite its revamp launching of CCTV America, critics have voiced concerns over the level of censorship exercised by the channel, especially on sensitive domestic issues in China.[13] Philip Cunningham of Cornell University, who has appeared more than 100 times on CCTV talk shows, noted that sensitive issues such as Tibet and Xinjiang were heavily edited on various programs.[23] Ma Jing, Director of CCTV America, defended the channel against such allegations by saying that the channel edits stories the same way other news organizations do. She said: "We uphold the traditional journalistic values. We consider accuracy, objectivity, truthfulness, and public accountability very important, more important than anything else."[23]

On 18 September 2019, Nick Pollard, a British TV executive, resigned from his post as consultant and advisor to CGTN, giving his reason for leaving as being CGTN's failure to comply with Ofcom's rules on impartiality in connection to its coverage of the Hong Kong anti-extradition bill protests.[24] He had joined CGTN in December 2018.[25] Ofcom had several inquiries into CGTN going on in September 2019.[26] In March 2021, CGTN was fined £225,000 by Ofcom for bias in its coverage of the 2019 pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong, which was found to have repeatedly breached fairness and impartiality requirements.[27][28]

A September 2019 article in The Diplomat stated that CGTN "has a consistent record of blatantly and egregiously violating journalistic standards and encouraging or justifying hatred and violence against innocent people."[29]

In February 2021, a Press Gazette investigation found that CGTN purchased ads on Facebook that denied any mistreatment of Uyghurs and promoted Xinjiang internment camps as "vocational training centres."[30] In July 2021, BBC News reported that CGTN initiated a drive to use foreign vloggers, such as Raz Gal-Or and Lee and Oli Barrett, as stringers to denounce negative coverage of Xinjiang.[31][32] The use of these individuals prevents YouTube from labelling their content as state-sponsored content, although their videos are promoted by state media accounts. Australian cybersecurity researcher Robert Potter from Internet 2.0 said there was evidence that these vloggers were heavily promoted using a mix of 50 Cent Army, click farms, fake bot accounts, and fake news websites, all to "spoof YouTube into treating it like a legitimate view."[31] Global Voices reported in October 2021 that CGTN had also hired Arabic-speaking social media influencers to frame Chinese government policies toward the Uyghurs as part of an anti-terrorist measure.[33]

A 2022 Journalism Practice research paper comparing RT and CGTN's coverage of the 2020 United States presidential election described CGTN as using a "surface neutrality" propaganda model, noting that it "avoid[ed] expressing partisanship or framing US politics in an unduly biased or subjective way" in its coverage of the election, but it "dropp[ed] its objective tone in favour of being enthusiastically pro-China, without exception" in its coverage of geopolitical issues affecting China. The paper added: "Unlike RT, it frequently frames issues (such as the revelations about Trump's taxes) through the prism of the Chinese interest—even if the issues have no direct bearing on China. These characteristics contravene journalistic norms of independence from government and impartiality".[34]

Broadcasting of forced confessions

See also: Forced confession

CCTV broadcast two forced confessions of the British journalist Peter Humphrey. The first was staged in August 2013, and was filmed by a CCTV crew with Humphrey locked in an iron chair inside a steel cage, wearing handcuffs and an orange prison vest. This was before he had been indicted, tried or convicted of a crime. The second, in July 2014, was once again filmed by CCTV, not in a cage this time, but still in a prison vest and handcuffs, before he had been tried or convicted on the charge of illegal information gathering.[35] Both were aired in the UK by CGTN.[36]

On 23 November 2018, Humphrey filed a complaint to Ofcom against CCTV, citing violations of the United Kingdom Broadcasting Code's Fairness and Privacy provisions. Humphrey said that both confessions were scripted and directed by the Chinese police, the public security bureau, while he was a prisoner, in conditions of duress amounting to torture.[36][37] On 6 July 2020, Ofcom ruled that CGTN was guilty of breaching UK broadcasting standards in both incidents. The ruling stated that CGTN had breached Humphrey's privacy and that in the channel's reporting, "material facts were presented, disregarded or omitted in a way that was unfair to Mr Humphrey".[4]

In November 2019, CGTN aired a video of a UK consular employee, Simon Cheng, in captivity "confessing" to consorting with prostitutes. Within a week, Cheng had filed a complaint with Ofcom.[38]

On 8 March 2021, CGTN was fined a total of £225,000 by Ofcom for serious breaches of fairness, privacy and impartiality rules. "We found the individuals (Simon Cheng and Gui Minhai) concerned were unfairly treated and had their privacy unwarrantably infringed," Ofcom said, adding that the broadcaster had "failed to obtain their informed consent to be interviewed." It concluded that "material facts which cast serious doubt on the reliability of their alleged confessions" had been left out of the programmes, which aired pre-trial “confessions” of the two men while they were being detained. Ofcom said it was considering further sanctions.[7][39]

Detained Australian journalist

Further information: Cheng Lei (journalist) § Detention

In August 2020, Australian CGTN television anchor Cheng Lei was detained by Chinese authorities on national security grounds but no details of accusations were provided.[40][41][42]

COVID-19 misinformation

Further information: COVID-19 misinformation by China

In April 2020, the non-governmental organization Reporters Without Borders criticized CGTN for engaging in disinformation regarding COVID-19.[5] The United States Department of State described CGTN's output on COVID-19 as part of a wider government-led disinformation campaign.[43] In April 2021, the European External Action Service published a report that cited Chinese state media outlets, including CGTN, as spreading disinformation to present Western vaccines as unsafe.[44][45]

French journalist controversy

In March 2021, an investigation by Le Monde claimed that a supposed French journalist for CGTN named "Laurène Beaumond" was a fabricated identity.[46] Le Figaro disputed this, saying "Beaumond" was a real French journalist from Sarthe, but had been publishing for CGTN under a pseudonym. Le Figaro said they had interviewed "Beaumond", under the condition that her true identity be kept secret.[47]

Accusation of antisemitism

In May 2021, Israel's embassy in Beijing accused CGTN of "blatant antisemitism" when it broadcast an antisemitic canard during the 2021 Israel–Palestine crisis.[48][49][50]

Peng Shuai disappearance

Further information: Disappearance of Peng Shuai

In December 2021, Chinese professional tennis player Peng Shuai disappeared after publicizing sexual assault allegations against former Chinese vice premier Zhang Gaoli. CGTN's official account on Twitter subsequently posted an "email" professed to be from her claiming she was okay, but attracted questions over its authenticity as a cursor was visible in the screenshot of the third line.[51] The Women's Tennis Association did not believe the email was genuine.[52]

2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine

Further information: Disinformation in the 2021–2022 Russo-Ukrainian crisis and Ukraine bioweapons conspiracy theory

In March 2022, CGTN paid for digital ads on Facebook targeting global users with briefings and newscasts featuring pro-Kremlin talking points about the 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine after Meta Platforms banned Russian state media advertisement buys.[53][54] The same month, CGTN repeated unsubstantiated Russian claims of biological weapons labs in Ukraine.[55][56]

Responses

U.S. designation as foreign mission

In 2018, the United States Department of Justice directed CGTN America, the U.S. division of CGTN, to register as a foreign agent under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA).[14] CGTN America said in its FARA filings on 1 February 2019 that it disagreed with the Justice Department's decision, but registered nonetheless.[57] In 2020, the United States Department of State designated CGTN and its parent company, CCTV, as foreign missions.[58][59]

Revocation of UK broadcasting license

On 4 February 2021, Star China Media (the UK broadcast license holder for CGTN) had its broadcast license revoked by UK broadcasting regulator Ofcom.[60] Ofcom found that Star had no editorial oversight over the channel it was broadcasting, and was instead acting as a third-party distributor for CGTN's feed.[60] Ofcom also denied an application to transfer the broadcast license to the China Global Television Network Corporation (CGTNC), on the grounds that CGTNC was "controlled by a body which is ultimately controlled by the Chinese Communist Party".[60] UK law prohibits license holders from being controlled by political bodies.[61] In a statement, Ofcom said:

We have given CGTN significant time to come into compliance with the statutory rules. Those efforts have now been exhausted. Following careful consideration, taking account of all the facts and the broadcaster’s and audience's rights to freedom of expression, we have decided it is appropriate to revoke the licence for CGTN to broadcast in the UK. We expect to conclude separate sanctions proceedings against CGTN for due impartiality and fairness and privacy breaches shortly.[62]

In what CNN Business characterised as "an apparent tit-for-tat move", the Chinese government on 11 February banned the BBC World News TV channel from airing in China. Given that BBC World News could only be received in so-called foreign compounds (such as internationally owned hotels) in mainland China in the first place, it was unclear what impact, if any, this ban would have.[63]

CGTN later sought and received agreement from French regulatory authorities to broadcast in France, which would allow them to broadcast in member states of the Council of Europe, including the United Kingdom.[64]

In August 2021, Ofcom levied additional fines on CGTN's UK license holder, Star China Media, for breaches of rules around fairness and privacy.[65] The channel announced later in the month that the channel has returned to the UK by launching on Freeview. Ofcom later claimed the channel uses the Vision TV Network, an internet-based datacasting service.[66]

Suspension from SBS

In March 2021, the Australian television network SBS suspended the English and Mandarin broadcasts of CGTN and CCTV respectively, which were broadcast on SBS as part of its World Watch program, over human rights complaints concerning the airings of "forced confessions."[6][67] CGTN responded that CCTV has signed a cooperation agreement with SBS to broadcast some of CCTV's Chinese programs for free in 2006, but CGTN did not authorize SBS to broadcast its English programs.[68]

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