A Chinese regulator ordered the British Broadcasting Corp. off the airwaves in Chinese territory for news reports it called unfair, days after Beijing’s primary international news channel lost its license in the U.K.
The move shows media organizations becoming increasingly embroiled in China’s deteriorating relations with the West. London and Beijing have criticized each other’s actions as hurting media freedom and characterized the news organizations involved as extensions of either government’s agenda.
In the mainland, China’s announcement by the National Radio and Television Administration just past midnight Friday, at the start of the Lunar New Year holiday, appeared mostly symbolic since international broadcasters such as the BBC already have extremely limited reach there. The programming typically can be seen only in upmarket hotels and compounds where foreigners live, and even on those feeds the screens frequently go black when news relates to China.
While China’s announcement ordered the BBC off the airways in Chinese territory, it wasn’t immediately clear how the ban, set to last at least a year, would affect BBC services in Hong Kong, which has a freer media environment, though Beijing has tightened controls on journalism there.
BBC television news remained on the air in Hong Kong early Friday. The broadcaster has deep roots in the former British colony, which the U.K. handed back to China in 1997 and where BBC news reports today are carried on local radio and cable TV.