UK regulator investigates Chinese TV in Britain over confession it aired

LONDON (Reuters) - A private investigator previously jailed in China has asked Britain to restrict China Central Television’s operations on the grounds that it broke UK broadcasting rules by airing confessions he said he was forced to make.

Briton Peter Humphrey and his American wife Yu Yingzeng were sentenced in 2014 for illegally obtaining private records of Chinese citizens and selling the information to clients, including drugmaker GlaxoSmithKline.

They were deported from China in June 2015 after their jail terms were reduced.

The case was intertwined with an investigation of GSK in China that led to a $489 million fine against the firm for paying bribes to doctors to use its drugs.

Humphrey said in a complaint to British media regulator Ofcom that CCTV had collaborated with police to extract, record and broadcast a confession he said he was forced to make long before his actual trial.

CCTV did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

An Ofcom spokeswoman said: “We have received a complaint which we are assessing as a priority.

“If, following investigation, we find our rules have been broken, we would take the necessary enforcement action.”

The regulator has the power to fine a broadcaster for breaching rules, and in the most severe infringements can revoke a license.

It fined Al Arabiya News, an Arabic language news channel based in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, 120,000 pounds ($153,924) earlier this year for broadcasting what it said was a confession made by a Bahraini opposition leader filmed in a prison without obtaining consent or verifying the accuracy and fairness of the footage.

Humphrey said CCTV had released its footage on channels around the world through its international arm, China Global Television (CGTN), including its English-language channel, which is broadcast in Britain.

He said the broadcasts had resulted in the prejudicing of Chinese and world public opinion against him and his wife, and prejudiced a later trial.

He said the broadcasts had breached Britain’s broadcasting code in areas including impartiality and accuracy, fairness and privacy.

($1 = 0.7796 pounds)

Reporting by Paul Sandle in London and Philip Wen in Beijing; editing by Guy Faulconbridge and Kevin Liffey