Take 5: English language news from foreign state-sponsored broadcasters

An increasing number of countries see an English language news channel as a 'must have' and a way of showing the world their viewpoint of events, and as a "soft power" tool, to feed viewers with different thoughts and opinions to those seen on other channels.

As TRT World becomes the latest international news channel to launch in the UK, a closer look at a selection of five such state-sponsored channels, now widely available on UK television platforms:


CGTN (China)

The recently rebranded CCTV News channel from China State TV provides the Chinese view of events for global audiences. One of its main aims is to serve foreigners both inside and outside China, specifically those with an interest in the country.

CGTN has put in a lot of resources in covering African news, with newscasts broadcast from Nairobi, Kenya. It follows a decade of intense investment, particularly in mining industries, across the continent by China. It has meant that CCTV/CGTN has overtaken many established international operators in terms of coverage given to African affairs. CGTN also presents news bulletins broadcast from its studio in Washington D.C. CGTN operates a number of language services in different parts of the world, including a service aimed at France. Although the channel is available in the UK on a number of platforms, it has a relatively low profile, with no major push so far to reach more UK viewers. If you view these channels as tools by foreign governments, then it seems the UK is not a major priority.

  • Sky 510, Freesat 211, Freeview (streamed channel) 226


France 24 (France)

France 24 has three channels - one in English, one in French and one in Arabic, with the English version distributed on all major satellite and cable platforms in the UK. The service is owned by the French Government. France 24 offers live newscasts from Paris 24/7. The France 24 network's global reach sits alongside services distributed to French overseas territories as well as the long-established TV5 Monde network, which is supported by French language broadcasters around the world.

Praised for its measured, non-sensationalist coverage of recent attacks in France, the channel is relatively muted and uncontroversial compared to other broadcasters. France 24 also features a number of lifestyle and current affairs segments, often covering different aspects of life in France and French speaking territories around the world. Available in the UK on a number of platforms, but like other similar broadcasters does not have a dedicated service or unique selling point to more mainstream viewers in the UK.

  • (English service) Sky 513, Freesat 205, Virgin 624, TVPlayer.com


Al Jazeera English (Qatar)

Over the past 20 years, the Doha-based state funded broadcaster Al Jazeera has developed into a widely available news service, since 2006 also in English. Its news agenda puts a greater emphasis on events in the Middle East and in developing parts of the world, with a number of current affairs programmes frequently reporting social and political issues in parts of the world not usually given much airtime elsewhere.

Al Jazeera English has become the home for a number of former British TV personalities. One of the first to join was the late Sir David Frost. With news bulletins broadcast from Doha and The Shard, London [pictured], the channel has probably the most familiar feel of the foreign English news channels for viewers in the UK. The English language news service has had less controversial baggage than the original Arabic language counterpart, which became known for broadcasting videos from Osama bin Laden.

Plans for a UK opt-out, first mentioned in 2013, have thus far not materialised. Incidentally, Al Jazeera English is one of two channels available on Gibraltar's digital terrestrial TV network, the other being Gibraltar's local channel GBC.

  • Freeview HD 108 (not in all parts of the UK), Sky 514, Freesat 203, Virgin 622, TVPlayer.com


NHK World (Japan)

The English language channel from Japan's state broadcaster with hourly news bulletins from Tokyo and a large part of its schedule dedicated to promoting all things Japanese, from food to travel, music and culture plus Japanese language lessons. 

Similar to the BBC, NHK is a public broadcaster chartered by the government of Japan under Japan's Broadcasting Legislation.

The go-to place to hear about any earthquakes or tsunamis affecting Japan - as the channels breaks to simulcast NHK's domestic feed, with English translation. NHK World's news agenda is very much focused on East Asian news, although there is coverage of the major international news stories of the day. Presentation is very conservative and uncontroversial. Breaking news relating to Europe or the US don't normally trigger any schedule changes.

  • Sky 507, Freesat 209, Virgin 625, TVPlayer.com



RT (Russia)
Formerly known as "Russia Today", the channel has rapidly expanded its distribution in the UK and elsewhere, with different services for different countries where Russia sees an interest to make its worldview known. The Kremlin-funded service has a dedicated evening service for viewers in the UK. Unlike other foreign news channels, RT goes beyond just providing world news from Russia's viewpoint: it also seeks to provide a platform for alternative views in the different countries it operates in and often doing so in a controversial manner. Critics note that the alternative views promoted invariably are those that support Russia's overall interests, including supporting nationalist movements that undermine existing establishments. Others point out that this was exactly the kind of thing western broadcasters were up to during the Cold War. 

As UK TV broadcasting rules require at least some airtime to be given to both sides of an argument, RT has repeatedly been found in breach by regulator Ofcom. In October, RT claimed all of its UK accounts had been closed, creating a massive amount of publicity, when in fact only one supplier account was affected.

  • Freeview (SD) 135 (HD - not in all areas) 113, Sky 512, Freesat 206, TVPlayer.com








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