China barred Britain’s BBC World News from airing on Friday and Hong Kong’s public broadcaster said it was dropping the channel, a week after Britain’s media regulator revoked Chinese state television’s UK broadcast licence.
China’s National Radio and Television Administration said an investigation found BBC World News’ China-related reports had “seriously violated” regulations, including that news should be “truthful and fair”, had harmed China’s interests and undermined national unity.
The channel, therefore, did not meet requirements for foreign channels broadcasting in China and its application to air for another year would not be accepted, it said.
Radio Television Hong Kong (RTHK), the publicly funded broadcaster in the former British territory, said separately on Friday it was suspending the relay of BBC news programming from Friday, following Beijing’s decision.
English-language BBC World News is not included in most TV channel packages in mainland China, but is available in some hotels and homes.
British foreign minister, Dominic Raab, and the U.S. State Department condemned China’s decision.
“China’s decision to ban BBC World News in mainland China is an unacceptable curtailing of media freedom,” Raab said.
“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.”
RTHK’s decision to shun the BBC’s news output is further evidence that Beijing’s tightening grip on Hong Kong extends to media.
Last year, when Beijing expelled about a dozen journalists working for U.S. news outlets, it also barred them from relocating to Hong Kong.
RTHK, founded in 1928 and sometimes compared with the BBC, is the only independent, publicly funded media outlet on Chinese soil and is guaranteed editorial independence by its charter.
It angered the Hong Kong government and Beijing over its coverage of anti-government protests that roiled the city in 2019. RTHK’s cancellation of the weekly “Headliner” show last year fuelled concern among some in Hong Kong that it was coming under greater government pressure.
Hong Kong pay TV platforms Cable TV and Now TV also carry BBC World News.
US State Department spokesman Ned Price condemned China’s action.
“It’s troubling that as (China) restricts outlets and platforms from operating freely in China, Beijing’s leaders use free and open media environments overseas to promote misinformation,” Price said during a regular news briefing on Thursday.
This month, the State Department said it was “deeply disturbed” by reports carried by the BBC of systematic rape and sexual abuse against women in internment camps for ethnic Uighurs and other Muslims in China’s Xinjiang region.
China denies accusations of abuses in Xinjiang and said the BBC report was “wholly without factual basis”.
The BBC said it was disappointed by the decision of the Chinese authorities to bar BBC World News from broadcasting.
“The BBC is the world’s most trusted international news broadcaster and reports on stories from around the world fairly, impartially and without fear or favour,” the BBC said.
On Feb. 4, British media regulator Ofcom revoked China Global Television Network’s (CGTN) licence to broadcast in Britain after an investigation found the licence was wrongfully held by Star China Media Ltd.
China criticised the ruling as politicised and warned it reserved the right to make a “necessary response”.