12 Feb OFCOM CRACKS DOWN ON BROADCASTERS
Ofcom has withdrawn the broadcasting licence of English language satellite news channel CGTN after it concluded that the licence holder, Star China Media Limited (SCML), did not have editorial responsibility for the channel’s output.
In the UK, broadcast licensees must have control over the service they provide and licence holders cannot be controlled by political bodies.
SCML had sought to transfer its licence to an entity called China Global Television Network Corporation (CGTNC) but Ofcom denied the application, finding that “CGTNC would be disqualified from holding a licence, as it is controlled by a body which is ultimately controlled by the Chinese Communist Party”.
It is rare for Ofcom to revoke a broadcasting licence but this decision shows that Ofcom will use these powers when deemed appropriate.
Another recent example of Ofcom sanctioning a licensee is the £50,000 fine it imposed on Khalsa Television Limited (KTV) for serious breaches of the broadcasting code.
KTV broadcasts a range of cultural, religious and educational programmes to the UK’s Sikh community.
Ofcom found that KTV had aired a music video on three separate occasions which indirectly encouraged Sikhs living in the UK to commit violence, including murder, against people opposed to the Khalistan Liberation Front. It also found that the music video contained subliminal harmful messages in an apparent attempt to influence viewers without them being aware.
Ofcom said a second investigation into the channel ‘‘found that a live discussion programme, Panthak Masle, featured a number of statements which were likely to incite crime or lead to disorder. This included material which amounted to implicit threats of violence towards Harnek Singh, a Sikh radio presenter living in New Zealand’’.
Ofcom concluded that these breaches were serious and warranted the imposition of a statutory sanction of £20,000 in respect of the music video and of £30,000 in respect of the discussion programme. In addition, Ofcom ordered that KTV must not repeat the music video or the discussion programme and must air a summary of the decisions on a date – and in a form – set by the regulator.
These decisions highlight some of the sanctions that Ofcom can impose on broadcasters when a serious breach is committed.