China's CGTN Washington bureau registers as foreign agent

CGTN America, which serves as the Washington bureau for the network, registered in response to a request from the US government in September.
CGTN America, which serves as the Washington bureau for the network, registered in response to a request from the US government in September.PHOTO: FACEBOOK/CGTN AMERICA

WASHINGTON (BLOOMBERG) - The US division of China's state-owned broadcaster, China Global Television Network, has registered as a foreign agent with the US Justice Department.

CGTN America, which serves as the Washington bureau for the network, registered in response to a request from the US government in September.

Its ultimate parent, CCTV, a Chinese state-owned broadcaster, disputed the Justice Department's characterisation of its relationship with the Chinese government and Communist Party, but registered "out of an abundance of caution and in the spirit of cooperation with US authorities".

In its filing, first reported by BuzzFeed News, CGTN America disclosed a budget between Dec 1, 2018, and Jan 31, 2019, of US$8 million, including US$5.7 million for "employment related expenses". Its news operation employs about 180 people, the filing said.

As a registered foreign agent, CGTN America will be required to disclose its annual budget and expenditures and other information under the Foreign Agents Registration Act, which mandates registration with the Justice Department by organisations and individuals that attempt to influence US policy makers or public opinion on behalf of foreign governments.

The registration comes amid trade and political tensions with China. President Donald Trump's administration has imposed duties on about US$250 billion worth of Chinese goods. It is challenging the country's trade practices.

The administration has also accused Beijing of interfering in US elections.

 

In an October speech at the Hudson Institute in Washington, Vice-President Mike Pence said, "There can be no doubt: China is meddling in America's democracy."

The Justice Department also asked Xinhua News Agency, the official state-run press agency of the People's Republic of China and one of the largest news organisations in the world, to register last September, but it has yet to do so.

China Global Television Network provides programming to audiences in more than 100 English-speaking countries, including the US, according to the filing.

The registration echoes those of US partners of Russian media operations in the wake of the Kremlin's meddling in the 2016 election.

Several US contractors working with RT and Sputnik Radio were required to comply with the act.

The Justice Department cited a January 2017 intelligence community assessment on Russian efforts to interfere in the election that called the media outlets "the backbone of the Russian government's propaganda apparatus".

FOREIGN AGENTS

The Russian government retaliated by designating the US government-funded Voice of America, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and seven of their affiliates as foreign agents in December. The organisations had to disclose their sources of funding and other information.

The US has required foreign media controlled by governments to register in the past; the New York bureau of Tass, the wire service of the Soviet Union, was until 1992.

The US distributors for three other Chinese media outlets - the China Daily of Beijing, the People's Daily Overseas and the Xinmin Evening News - are registered under the Act.

In May, a Northern Virginia company that had broadcast French government-sponsored France 24, retroactively disclosed information as a foreign agent, though it had ceased its over-the-air broadcasts of the programming.