Station tried to tone down Albert Cheng for two years
Radio boss is wrong to think his style is outdated, says the terminated host
Senior executives of Commercial Radio had been trying to tone down Albert Cheng Kong-hon's style for two years before deciding to terminate his contract, the outspoken radio host said.
Cheng, who was yesterday still finalising the legal details of the early termination of his contract with the radio station, said Commercial Radio director Winnie Yu had been telling him over the past two years that there had been a change in the values held by Hong Kong people.
'She said the public desires harmony and reconciliation,' Cheng said. 'Perhaps the management of Commercial Radio thought that the confrontational approach had become outdated. That's the message I got as a participant in the operation of the radio station,' he said.
'That is not in line with the expectations of Hong Kong people, who want radio talk shows to serve as channels to vent their anger and dissatisfaction.'
Cheng, known for his sensational hosting style, said he did not see Ms Yu's remarks as an order or instruction.
When Ms Yu revealed on Wednesday that negotiations for an early settlement of Cheng's contract were in progress, she said that the station wanted to move away from what she termed emotional appeal to rationality. She also said that by running away one after another, programme hosts were themselves undermining freedom of expression.
Cheng said the radio station's timing and strategy in handling the contractual dispute was 'very bad'.
'It would definitely have a negative impact on the freedom of expression in Hong Kong when the most popular radio host, who is seen as a watchdog of the government, is removed,' he said.
Cheng, who has hosted Teacup in a Storm for Commercial Radio since 1995, said no media organisation had approached him in the past few days, since the termination had become known.
'It speaks volumes that Hong Kong media are dominated by political considerations. They don't want to get a golden goose in their hands because they are opting for political correctness,' he said.
Cheng, who operated magazines in the 1980s, said he had no plan to start up any media, including web radio.
He estimated that his programme, Teacup in a Storm, had brought in nearly $100 million a year in advertising revenue for Commercial Radio. The talk show has been the station's ratings mainstay in the past decade.
He said he hoped the 'conspiracy theory' that Commercial Radio had been planning to get rid of him for some time was untrue.
'But if you apply the conspiracy theory, there is no surprise,' he said, citing the shortening of the duration of his programme early last year and the hiring of people to monitor his talk show.
Cheng said he was not seeking punitive compensation for the termination of his contract.
He said the major argument over the settlement lay with Commercial Radio's wish to keep his partner, Peter Lam Yuk-wah, on the talk show. But Lam preferred to leave the station with Cheng.