CGTN to Resume UK Broadcasts

Following the Ofcom licence revocation, Chinese international news channel CGTN will resume broadcasts in the UK.

An agreement pre-dating the European Union allows TV channels licensed in France to broadcast in the UK.

As CGTN has such a license, it will resume UK broadcasts in due course, once prepartions have been made to uplink the channel from France, a requirement of the licence.

Unlike the UK France does allow state controlled TV channels, but like the UK still regulates the output of the channel. This means CGTN could find itself back in trouble, if it does not stick to the rules in France.

BBC Channel Changes

While I was away, it was confirmed that BBC Three is returning as a linear TV channel, to the Freesat, Freeview, Sky, and Virgin Media platforms.

CBBC will revert to its original finishing time of 7pm. BBC Three will feature a strand of programmes suitable for 13 to 18 year olds from 7pm to 9pm. The return of BBC Three is scheduled for early 2021.

Although frequencies are available for the return of BBC Three, the original channel numbers have been reassigned to other services. It has not been confirmed which numbers BBC Three will be given, but as a BBC service, it will be given priority for a low number high on the EPG.

BBC Four remains, but will become an archive channel, and will no longer receive new commissioned shows. Some live art programming will remain, as part of the cost reducing changes.

End of Life for Lifetime

Premium channel Lifetime will leave the Sky, Virgin Media, and Youview powered platforms in the UK and Ireland, as the channel is closing at the end of the month.

Two sources offer different closure dates, with Media Mole suggesting 28th February (2021) in the headline but contradicting itself with March 1st in quote. TV Channel Lists opts for March 1st. A closure in the early hours of 1st March is most likely, meaning the 28th February should be the last full day of broadcasts.

Lifetime is owned by A&E Television Networks, and replaced The Biography Channel seven years ago. With a BARB average audience share of just 0.03%, the channel has struggled to attract an audience, lagging behind sister channels including free to air Blaze (0.29%), and premium channels Sky History (0.22%) and Crime+Investigation (0.16%).

The other channels will remain, with Lifetime content expected to be accommodated on the other channels. In other parts of the world, Lifetime continues to be available in Poland and Africa, although the outlet in Malta is also closing.

Screenshot of Media Mole article offering contradicting closure dates (click to view full size).

Tit for Tat Move from China

Following Ofcom revoking CGTN’s license to broadcast in the UK, China has made a similar move against BBC World News, banning the channel from broadcasting in China.

Despite this, BBC World News is not widely available in China, except in some hotels. China has accused the BBC’s news coverage in China as being untruthful and unfair, claims which have been refuted by the BBC.

The move appears to be ‘tit for tat’, and is a sign of worsening tensions between the UK and China. Hong Kong’s RTHK government broadcaster has also removed the BBC World News channel.

Integration Planned for Freesat and Digital UK

UK public service broadcasters BBC, ITV, and Channel 4 are planning to integrate Digital UK and Freesat. Digital UK facilitates the provision of Freeview TV services, whilst Freesat is the UK’s main subscription free satellite TV platform (not to be confused with the entirely separate Freesat from Sky).

This proposed move is intended to help ensure viewers continue to have access to a range of free to view TV platforms. Additionally, the move is also intended to help viewers benefit from technological innovations and developments across the two services.

The move requires regulatory approval, and should complete a few months after approval is given.

CGTN License Revoked

UK regulator Ofcom has revoked the license held by Star China Media Limited (SCML) to broadcast Chinese news channel CGTN in the UK. They found SCML to be a distributor rather than provider, and as such had no editorial control over content so could not lawfully hold a license.

A license transfer to China Global Television Network Corporation (CGTNC) could not be processed as this was missing information. However, CGTNC is ultimately controlled by the Chinese Communist Party, and as political bodies are prohibited from holding licenses, this transfer would have likely have been rejected.

For viewers, this means the channel is no longer available on EPGs UK in the, with CGTN previously being available via Freeview and Sky. However, satellite viewers can still manually tune in the channel, as CGTN is still being broadcast and is un-encrypted.

More Details Revealed on GB News

GB News, the proposed new news channel with backing from Discovery, will be on all major UK TV platforms, including terrestrial (Freeview including YouView based platforms), satellite (both Freesat and Sky), and cable (Virgin Media).

Infrastructure provider Arqiva has been selected to deliver the channel, and will oversee the launch and manage programme delivery. The channel should reach 96% of households in the UK.

A proposed launch date has not yet been revealed, but the channel is expected to launch this year (2021).

BBC Sounds App Added to Sky Q

A new app has been added to the Sky Q connected satellite platform. BBC Sounds allows users to access live radio, music mixes, playlists, and podcasts produced by the BBC.

The app is now available to all Sky Q customers, and can be launched using the voice control remote by saying “Launch BBC Sounds”.

Among the functions of the app is the ability to pick up where they left off on other devices. Users can subscribe to shows so they don’t miss an episode, and bookmark their favourites.

The deal expands on existing collaboration between the BBC and Sky, which saw iPlayer launch on Sky Q towards the end of 2019.

Amazon Prime on Freesat and New Partnershipe With Sky

The Amazon Prime Video app is to be added to the latest generation of Freesat boxes, providing another way for Prime Video customers to access the service. New customers will be able to sign-up via the app, and receive a 30 day free trial. The addition will enhance the hybrid offering, which includes a large selection of free-to-air channels delivered via satellite.

Sky and Amazon have also unveiled a new partnership, which will see Prime Video added to Sky and Now TV devices across Europe, including the UK and Ireland. In a return move, Now TV will be added to selected Fire TV devices and Smart TVs.

This means that Sky customers will be able to access all Premier League football matches shown live via their Sky Q box, with matches from BT Sport, Prime Video, and Sky Sports all being available via the platform. However, to do this a subscription will be required to all three services, which may be a costly exercise.