CGTN Off Air Across Europe as Vodafone Germany Suspends State Mouthpiece From Cable

CGTN Off Air Across Europe as Vodafone Germany Suspends State Mouthpiece From Cable
The Vodafone logo is seen at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain, on Feb. 28, 2018. (Sergio Perez/Reuters)

BERLIN—Vodafone Germany has had to stop distributing China’s state-owned CGTN television on its cable services as a result of a media dispute between Britain and China.

The unit of British telecom group Vodafone said on Feb. 12 that it currently didn’t have a valid license to restore CGTN to its services, but hopes to do so.

Britain last week revoked a license that let CGTN be distributed in Britain. That drew protests from China, which on Feb. 12 barred the BBC from its television networks and limited its reach in Hong Kong.

A spokesman for regulators in the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia, one of the regions where CGTN had been available until now, said CGTN had been distributed in Germany under the British license.

Under the terms of a 1989 agreement on “transfrontier television,” created under the aegis of the Council of Europe, of which Britain remains a member, a distribution license in one European country applies across most of the continent—meaning CGTN may now have to go off air across the region.

The agreement has been signed by all European Union countries as well as many non-EU countries, including most Balkan countries and Ukraine. In principle, a license in any of them could allow distribution to resume.

“We are currently in discussions regarding the withdrawal of the license both with regional media authorities and the broadcaster’s representatives in order to clarify the legal situation,” Vodafone said.

CGTN didn’t immediately respond to an emailed request for comment outside of normal business hours on Feb. 12, a public holiday in China.

By Nadine Schimroszik and Matthias Inverardi