'Taipan' says radio row about politics
Peter So and Niall Fraser
A major shareholder's decision to put the Digital Broadcasting Corporation at risk of liquidation by refusing to pump in extra cash is 'politically motivated', the station's co-founder, 'Taipan' Albert Cheng King-hon, says.
Businessman Wong Cho-bau, who came to public attention earlier this year for offering a bargain lease on a luxury Shenzhen penthouse to the then-chief executive, Donald Tsang Yam-kuen, reportedly said he planned to cut his losses on his investment in the broadcaster, as it had struggled to generate revenue.
But Cheng put the blame for Wong's reticence on the government, linking it with his own return to the airwaves and his decision to make the defeated chief executive candidate Henry Tang Ying-yen his first interviewee.
'This is all politically motivated. This government seems to want to go all out to suppress the opposition and get those who refuse to toe the line,' Cheng said yesterday. 'Other investors in the station are worried that because of this, the government is dragging its heels on putting the infrastructure in place to allow the further expansion of digital radio.'
Cheng was the popular host of Commercial Radio's controversial talk show Teacup in a Storm until he became a member of the Legislative Council in 2004. He co-founded DBC in 2008 with several partners, sealing a 12-year contract to run a Cantonese-language service.
Cheng said on Friday that the shareholders had 'lost mutual trust,' as they were split on issues related to 'the injection of capital and operational direction'.
Several other shareholders are understood to have sided with Wong, including the chairman of Vtech, Allan Wong Chi-yun, the chairman of Bank of East Asia , David Li Kwok-po and David Li's brother Arthur Li Kwok-cheung, a member of the Executive Council.
Between them they hold half of the company's shares, against Cheng's 23 per cent. Many are known to have close connection with Tsang.
Cheng said Wong, who has called in auditors to inspect DBC's books, had other options. 'Business-wise, Wong could have sold his shares to me. But he refused to do so,' Cheng said.
He claimed Wong had pledged in May to continue to invest when the shareholders agreed to inject HK$50 million into the company. 'He [Wong] has been playing tricks since I've been on air. It is obviously political motivated.' Wong could not be reached for comment.
Cheng has accused the government of failing to improve the strength of transmission of digital radio signals. He also claimed in an article for a Chinese-language newspaper on Friday that Exco member Fanny Law Fan Chiu-fun, a key aide in Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying's election campaign, was among those opposed to the growth of DBC.
A government spokesman refused to comment on Cheng's claim of political interference, and said the government had invested tens of millions of dollars in digital.
Charles Mok, a pan-democratic candidate running for the information technology sector seat in September's Legislative Council election, said it would be difficult to conclude that the government was stifling digital broadcasting for political reasons, though he criticised the government's policy as 'chaotic'. Mok will take on Legco member Samson Tam Wai-ho in the election.