Lawmakers approve broadcast licences bill
Lawmakers yesterday passed a bill ensuring that the chief executive will have to comply with a fixed set of criteria before granting broadcasting licences.
Passage of the Telecommunications Amendment Bill also means the Broadcasting Authority, which makes recommendations to the chief executive on the granting of licences, will issue guidelines on how it performs its functions.
An amendment, proposed by Democratic Party vice-chairwoman Emily Lau Wai-hing, was also passed, stating that the chief executive must take account of public opinion before deciding whether to grant a licence.
The Democratic Party, the League of Social Democrats and various independent pan-democrats voted against the bill, arguing that it merely legitimised current practice without improving upon it. Thirty-three lawmakers voted in favour, 16 were opposed, and there was one abstention.
Currently, applicants for a radio licence must be assessed by the Broadcasting Authority, which makes its recommendation to the chief executive and the Executive Council, who grant the licence.
The arrangement has been criticised as hindering freedom of expression.
'Isn't it ironic that what was once used by the colonial government to muffle communist sentiment is now being used by the government against the people of Hong Kong,' said Wong Yuk-man, chairman of the League of Social Democrats, which operates unlicensed Citizens' Radio.
Responding to Lau's amendment, Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development Rita Lau Ng Wai-lan said she would not oppose it, but considered it unnecessary as public opinion had always been heeded.