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Representational image - Broadcast lens Photo mix, Pixabay

The UK broadcasting regulator has launched a formal probe into an allegation that China Global Television Network (CGTN), the international news channel of the state-run China Central Television (CCTV), aired a confession forced from a British private investigator while imprisoned in Beijing.

Ofcom said on Wednesday that it would investigate whether CGTN, which was launched as CCTV's new international brand in 2016, , the Guardian reported.

In the UK, CGTN airs on platforms including Sky and Freesat.

If found in breach of the code, Ofcom has the power to deliver sanctions ranging from on-air apologies to substantial fines and, in the most serious cases, revoking UK broadcast licences.

The broadcasting regulator has moved to launch an official probe after assessing a fairness and privacy complaint filed by Peter Humphrey last November.

"We have decided to investigate a fairness and privacy complaint about news programmes broadcast on CCTV News," said a spokeswoman for Ofcom. "If we find our rules have been broken, we will take the appropriate action."

Humphrey, who worked as a journalist in the 1980s and 90s and was once a fellow at Harvard University, and his American wife, Yu Yingzeng, were imprisoned in China in 2013 on charges of illegally trading in personal information while consulting for pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline (GSK).

They subsequently appeared on Chinese state television, and internationally including on its English-language channel broadcast in Britain, making a public confession.

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

Ofcom has received four formal complaints about CCTV allegedly airing forced confessions.

The regulator has earlier imposed sanctions on broadcasters in cases of forced confessions, the Guardain said.

Last year, it fined the Saudi-owned news channel Al Arabiya $156,090 for broadcasting "confessions" by an imprisoned opposition leader without making it clear he had been tortured.

In 2011, Press TV, the Iranian state broadcaster's English-language outlet, was fined $130,080 after the channel aired an interview with Maziar Bahari, an imprisoned Newsweek journalist, that had been conducted under duress.

A year later, Ofcom revoked Press TV's right to air in the UK because its practice of running editorial oversight from Tehran breached broadcasting licence rules.