United Kingdom

Chinese state-run TV channel CGTN recruits vloggers and students at British universities

A Chinese TV network - which is banned in the UK - is targeting British influencers and vloggers as part of a new journalism recruitment scheme.

China Global Television Network (CGTN) is trying to tempt English-speaking social media users and journalism hopefuls to its 'Media Challengers' scheme with job prospects and a $10,000 prize.

The Chinese state broadcaster, which was taken of the air by Ofcom earlier this year after the watchdog found it was controlled by the country's Communist Party, is offering successful applicants journalism roles in Beijing, Washington, Nairobi, in London.

At least six students at the University of Leeds and one at the University of Manchester have already applied for the roles, according to the Times.

At least one of the entrants is an international student, though it is not clear if the other students are from the UK or are studying here.

One video, posted as a promotion for the campaign on GCTN's own website, is from Zhuang Shangzi, a 24-year-old masters student at the University of Manchester. 

Ms Shangzi, who says her friends call her 'Crystal', describes herself in the video as a 'people person', 'a perfectionist' and 'very rigorous'.  

The student, who previously studied in Vancouver, says her reasons for applying are that she 'loves travel' and that she's a 'huge fan of YouTube travel vloggers'.

In the video she specifically mentions Lee and Oli Barrett - two British YouTubers who regularly post videos about China - whose video, she says, 'help eliminate the bias western media has towards China'.

'Through these creators, I have come to realise that the tourism industry has an essential role in changing the perspective of China, she adds.

'So I'm proud that I could be a storyteller, to promote China and Chinese culture to people from all over the world. I want to promote the real China to the world.'

Another entry video, which is said to come from students and the University of Leeds, shows six students in a short promotional-style video for CGTN news.

One entry video, which is said to come from students and the University of Leeds, shows students in a short promotional-style video for CGTN news (pictured)

China Global Television Network (CGTN) is trying to tempt English-speaking social media users and journalism hopefuls to its 'Media Challengers' scheme with job prospects and a $10,000 prize

One of the entries, posted as a promotion for the campaign on GCTN's own website, is from Zhuang Shangzi (pictured), a 24-year-old masters student at the University of Manchester

What is CGTN? 

Launched in December 2016 during a glitzy launch ceremony in Beijing - attended by top officials in the Community Party - CGTN is a Chinese state broadcaster.

Headquartered in Beijing, CGTN has three production centers, located in Nairobi, Washington D.C. and London, 

According to its website, it aims to provide global audiences with accurate and timely news coverage, as well as 'promoting communication and understanding between China and the world'. 

The network, which is available in more than 160 countries world-wide, also claims to adhere to the principles of 'objectivity, rationality and balance in reporting'.

But is has regularly been criticised as the 'tongue and throat' of the Chinese Community Party.

And earlier this year it was thrown off British airways after watchdog Ofcom after an investigation found the license holder had links to the country's ruling party. 

According to CGTN's website, its 'Media Challengers' campaign was launched in April. 

It aims to find 'presenters, on-camera reporters, DJ and social media influencers who use English to report and create content from all over the world'.

Media experts, representatives of internet celebrities and social media influencers will judge the entrants before deciding the winners, the website adds.

The prize includes a $10,000 reward and 'professional journalism training', while winners 'may receive full-time or part-time jobs at CGTN'.

Job sites include at the network's Beijing headquarters, as well as regional production centres in Washington, London and Nairobi. 

It encourages entrants to send in videos of up to three-minutes in length to 'highlight your storytelling, editing and presenting skills'. 

According to its own website, CGTN, which was launched in 2016 and is available in more than 160 countries, adheres 'to the principles of objectivity, rationality and balance' in its reporting.

But in February the Chinese state-owned broadcaster was thrown off UK airwaves by Ofcom after an investigation found the license holder had links to the country's ruling Communist Party.

In July last year, the television watchdog launched an investigation into CGTN, which has spent millions of pounds launching a European hub in Chiswick, London  

The probe followed concern over biased coverage of Hong Kong pro-democracy protests and 'show trial' news reports of a corruption case against Briton Peter Humphrey in China. 

In February the CGTN was thrown off UK airwaves by Ofcom after an investigation found the license holder had links to the country's ruling Communist Party. Pictured: Liu Yunshan (C), a member of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee, Chinese Vice Premier Liu Yandong (R) and Liu Qibao (L), head of the Publicity Department of the CPC Central Committee, attend the launching ceremony of the China Global Television Network (CGTN) in Beijing in 2016

In February Ofcom revoked its licence, under laws which state that any licensee must have editorial control of the programmes shown and must not be controlled by political bodies.

Former Cabinet minister Iain Duncan Smith today told MailOnline in February that the Ofcom decision is 'a huge move and long overdue.'

CGTN: The Chinese state-owned broadcaster's controversial reports 

The China Global Television Network has often been criticised for allegedly sharing misinformation and making false allegations against opponents of the Chinese government. 

CGTN's most high-profile controversies include: 

Peter Humphrey 

Ofcom launched an investigation into CGTN - previously CCTV - following broadcasts which showed former British journalist Peter Humphrey appearing to confess to a criminal offence, and reported his conviction and an apology.

Mr Humphrey, 64, was jailed for more than two years by a court in Shanghai in 2014, in connection with a corruption case involving pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline. 

The two reports from CCTV identified Mr Humphrey but his face was blurred. The 2013 footage was broadcast across Chinese media as well as – astonishingly – in Britain. 

China's star TV presenter James Chau, a Cambridge-educated journalist who counts the Duchess of Sussex among his friends, solemnly introduced the shocking footage to viewers.

But according to Mr Humphrey, the entire broadcast was a lie.  

Hong Kong protests

The network has previously been investigated by Ofcom for its coverage of the Hong Kong protests, which took place in 2019 until late 2020. 

The media watchdog said the channel often focused on violence by protesters against police officers while ignoring attacks by the authorities on members of the public.

It said the output echoed the views of the pro-Beijing Hong Kong government without providing sufficient balance from those with alternative views, the Guardian reported. 

However, CGTN claimed it was 'particularly challenging' to air pro-democracy views on the Hong Kong protests because those demonstrating were reluctant to talk on camera.     

Simon Cheng

In November 2019,  CGTN aired a video of a UK consular employee in captivity appearing to 'confess' to consorting with prostitutes.

A week later, he filed a complaint with Ofcom. 

Nick Pollard

In September 2019, the British TV executive resigned from his post as consultant and advisor to CGTN.

He explained he was leaving due to CGTN's failure to comply with Ofcom's rules on impartiality regarding coverage of the Hong Kong protests. 

He added: 'The problem is too many people in the UK who were in positions of power have gone along with it for too long.' 

China later threatened to retaliate, with the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs accusing the UK of 'political oppression' and 'double standards', and demanding Britain 'correct its mistakes'.

At a press briefing in February, Wang Wenbin, a spokesperson of the foreign ministry said: 'We urge the UK to immediately stop political manipulation and correct its mistakes. China reserves the right to make the necessary response to safeguard the legitimate rights and interests of Chinese media.

CGTN had previously been described as the 'tongue and throat' of the Chinese Communist Party.

The Ofcom investigation found it was owned by a company called Star China Media, but the group did not control its output.

Instead, it was directed by a division of China Central Television (CCTV), the state-controlled broadcaster.  

Ofcom launched an investigation into CGTN  following broadcasts which showed British journalist Peter Humphrey appearing to confess to a criminal offence, and reported his conviction and an apology.

Mr Humphrey, 64, was jailed for more than two years by a court in Shanghai in 2014, in connection with a corruption case involving pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline. 

The two reports from CCTV identified Mr Humphrey but his face was blurred. The 2013 footage was broadcast across Chinese media as well as – astonishingly – in Britain. 

China's star TV presenter James Chau, a Cambridge-educated journalist who counts the Duchess of Sussex among his friends, solemnly introduced the shocking footage to viewers.

But according to Mr Humphrey, the entire broadcast was a lie.  

The investigator, who was arrested with his wife and business partner Yu Yingzeng while probing alleged corruption at pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline, insists that the footage masked the truth of his ordeal.

Mr Humphrey claims that he and his wife are innocent and the so-called 'confession' was a sham – confected from doctored footage captured after he had been plied with sedatives.

Speaking previously from his home in Surrey, Mr Humphrey told The Mail on Sunday earlier this year: 'It was a travesty of my human rights. 

'I was stripped of my dignity, drugged, caged and had my words twisted to create the impression I confessed. But I never did and I never will.

'The grief and humiliation I suffered was overwhelming. During that forced confession and the two years I endured in prison, they set out to crush my spirit. I'm left with scars that are still healing.'

After his release, Mr Humphrey complained to Ofcom, alleging unfair treatment and breach of privacy in two news reports on the case aired on CCTV, which has since been renamed CGTN. 

It added CCTV's airing of footage of him in custody 'had the potential materially and adversely to affect viewers' perception of him'.

It 'did not take sufficient steps to ensure that material facts had not been presented, omitted or disregarded in a way that was unfair to Mr Humphrey'.

He was also not given an 'appropriate and timely opportunity' to respond to the claims and had a 'legitimate expectation of privacy' because he had not given consent.    

In 2020, Ofcom found CGTN had breached the broadcasting code by failing to preserve due impartiality in its coverage of the Hong Kong protests.

The media watchdog said the channel often focused on violence by protesters against police officers while ignoring attacks by the authorities on members of the public.

China's star TV presenter James Chau, a Cambridge-educated journalist who counts the Duchess of Sussex among his friends, solemnly introduced the shocking footage to viewers

Ofcom's investigation concluded that Star China Media Limited (SCML), the licence-holder for the service, did not have editorial responsibility for the news channel's output. Pictured: Xi Jinping

It said the output echoed the views of the pro-Beijing Hong Kong government without providing sufficient balance from those with alternative views, the Guardian reported. 

However, CGTN claimed it was 'particularly challenging' to air pro-democracy views on the Hong Kong protests because those demonstrating were reluctant to talk on camera.     

The regulator is due to reach a decision about sanctions for the breach shortly.

An Ofcom spokeswoman said in February: 'Our investigation showed that the licence for China Global Television Network is held by an entity which has no editorial control over its programmes.

'We are unable to approve the application to transfer the licence to China Global Television Network Corporation because it is ultimately controlled by the Chinese Communist Party, which is not permitted under UK broadcasting law.

'We've provided CGTN with numerous opportunities to come into compliance, but it has not done so. We now consider it appropriate to withdraw the licence for CGTN to broadcast in the UK.'

MailOnline contacted CTGN for a comment. 

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