Ottawa is urged to revoke the broadcasting licence to a Chinese state media, with Tory MP Michael Chong calling to question its spreading of disinformation and violation of international human rights.
Such questionable conduct by the China Global Television Network (CGTN), the English version of the Beijing-run China Central Television (CCTV), includes the airing of pretrial confessions of Simon Cheng, a former employee of the British consulate in Hong Kong, Chong said on Feb. 6 during a House committee on Canada-China relations, citing a Financial Times report.
“As a result, Ofcom, the United Kingdom’s equivalent of the CRTC, yanked the broadcaster’s licence off [CGTN’s] airwaves. So why hasn’t your government done the same based on the advice from CSIS?” Chong asked Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino.
Chong also pointed to an order-in-council issued by the government last year, asking the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) to review Russia Today’s (RT) broadcasting licence amid Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine, which resulted in the revocation of that licence several weeks later.
“But CGTN, China’s authoritarian state-controlled broadcaster, is still operating here [in Canada], spreading disinformation and propaganda and violating international human rights laws,” Chong said while questioning Public Safety Marco Mendicino.
In response, Mendicino said he also shares concerns about disinformation, and that a confession made under torture would be contrary to the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. However, he argued that the CRTC has the responsibility to make its own decisions.
“As you well know, this is an administrative body that enjoys independence, that makes decisions that are based on the merits and the law,” he said. “As a government, we endeavour to respect the independence of those bodies, rather than to politicize those decisions.”
Chong refuted Mendicino, pointing again to the government’s order-in-council that led to the revocation of RT’s broadcasting licence.
“I would hope that it doesn’t take a war for the government to change its position on state-controlled authoritarian broadcasters on public Crown-owned airwaves, spreading disinformation and violating international human rights law,” Chong said.
Chong, who serves as his party’s foreign affairs critic, reiterated his stance in a series of Twitter posts on Feb. 10.
“The CRTC is an independent regulator & the granting of licences must be arms-length,” Chong wrote. “But the government has the power to order the CRTC review CGTN—as they did last year with another authoritarian state-controlled broadcaster, Russia Today.”
“The gov’t should order the CRTC to a new general broadcasting policy that denies authoritarian state-controlled broadcasters a licence. That would prevent any current (or future) authoritarian states from using public airwaves to spread disinformation and propaganda.”
Chong isn’t the only one calling for banning Chinese state media.
On Feb. 7, the Spain-based human rights NGO Safeguard Defenders said it has submitted a new formal complaint to the French broadcasting regulator regarding CCTV’s airing of televised force confessions across the European Union through the French Satellite operator Eutelsat.
In 2019, the NGO also filed a complaint with the CRTC about two Chinese broadcasters that were available via digital subscription, which aired 30 confessions involving about 60 people, reported Toronto Star.
Safeguard Defenders said in a 2021 “letter of concern” that the CRTC had failed to act on “irrefutable evidence of systematic transgressions by Chinese State broadcaster CCTV in Canada” broadcasted by CCTV and CGTN.
“This failure to halt abusive content on Canadian airwaves and the failure of a regulatory body to perform its duty is a significant blow to human rights protections and rule of law, both of which are keystones of Canadian life and society,” the letter reads. “Chinese TV’s blatant disregard for rules and laws, in Canada and elsewhere, cannot be countered, nor expect to change, if the regulatory bodies in question refuse to apply existing rules on them. Failure to act is to invite continued, and expanded, violations.”