News chief insists editorial freedom intact despite board ties to Beijing

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 20 December, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 20 December, 2008, 12:00am

ATV news chief Leung Ka-wing insists the station's editorial independence has not been compromised, despite a management structure widely perceived as being loyal to Beijing.

Mr Leung challenged critics to review all ATV newscasts to judge whether the station had downplayed pro-democracy news. His claims came after legislators raised concerns at a special panel meeting yesterday over the possible influence on news policy by ATV's board of directors, who have close ties with Beijing.

Legislator Emily Lau Wai-hing, vice-chairwoman of the Democratic Party, asked why the station used so much news from the state-owned China Central Television (CCTV).

'ATV is 100 per cent like CCTV. There is so much China news [from CCTV] on your casts,' said Ms Lau. 'I also heard that you have a blacklist. Some people cannot appear on news during some sensitive times.'

Mr Leung dismissed the allegations and argued it was unfair to judge the station by the frequency of use of CCTV news, saying Hong Kong people wanted to know more about Chinese affairs.

At the meeting, Linus Cheung Wing-lam, ATV's new executive chairman, told legislators he respected press freedom and promised not to interfere with Mr Leung's work. He had discussed the development of news programmes with Mr Leung and hoped to allocate more airtime in evening newscasts for international news.

Mr Leung, who joined ATV about 18 months ago as a vice-president in charge of news, and immediate supervisor Peter Kwan Wai tendered their resignations four days after Ricky Wong Wai-kay was appointed as the station's new chief executive officer early this month. Mr Leung agreed to stay after Mr Wong's departure.

Mr Leung said at the meeting that he and Mr Wong were coming from 'two worlds' when it came to handling news. He said the differences were so big that he had to tender his resignation after listening to Mr Wong's views.