Lai See

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 05 May, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 05 May, 2010, 12:00am


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Barrister tackles FCC board over unsporting TV rules

Who says club politics are boring? The Foreign Correspondents' Club makes its internal wrangling even more exciting than the upcoming Legislative Council by-elections, or referendum, as pan-democrats prefer to call it.

Feisty barrister Kevin Egan, who is running for an associate governor post in the club's coming election, is having a right old rant claiming that there is a lack of democracy in the club.

Egan is accusing the board of governors of ill-advisedly deciding to curtail what were previously sensible 'ad hoc' understandings about access to sports television programmes, mainly via the television set in the southwest corner of the main bar.

'We now have a regime that reminds me very much of painful days at boarding school,' he writes in his election manifesto.

Lai See understands that, before changes were introduced, any member could walk into the FCC at any time and ask for programmes they wanted to watch. Sometimes it was the racing from Sha Tin or Happy Valley, sometimes a cricket or football game.

But then the board decided that the club was turning too much into a sports bar, and a system was voted in requiring anyone wanting to watch such programmes to submit a request to the board for approval days in advance. Talk about bureaucracy!

But it gets worse: being given approval to watch a programme meant literally that - watching. No sound was allowed.

Egan does appear to have a prima facie case. This new system is a wee bit irrational, especially the rule about muting the commentary; after all, half the fun in watching these matches is the commentary.

Anyway, over to the board.

Broadcaster makes the news

The debate over Commercial Radio's selling airtime for political advertising just keeps getting more and more interesting.

The station has been lambasted for letting political parties 'interfere' with its editorial operation, and compromising its integrity by allowing them to buy airtime and sponsor programming. But some critics argue that the issue has nothing to do with editorial independence and everything to do with abiding by the broadcasting code of practice.

The law does not prohibit political advertising as long as prior approval has been sought from the Broadcasting Authority. Ah! Someone at the station must have forgotten to download that form.

Never mind, our beloved democracy fighter Emily Lau Wai-hing, who is one of the 'culprits' in this political kerfuffle, has a rather neat argument to defend her case.

Lau says hers is not political advertising because she only spent HK$38,000 to run short clips while the opposition Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong splashed out HK$500,000 on a three-month sponsorship. In short, she is effectively saying they are bigger; therefore, they must be badder.

Big bank, big leap

HSBC has always had a knack for diplomacy. Last week, it announced it would set up dedicated zones in selected branches to serve customers from the mainland and Taiwan to cater for their specific investment needs. We thought if the bank cannot get these customers to agree on thorny 'national' issues, at least it can get them to look at 'international' investments the same way.

Now the bank has made another big leap across the strait by announcing that HSBC Bank (Taiwan), the locally incorporated entity of The Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corp, began operation on May 1.

This marks another high point in HSBC's continued expansion in Taiwan in recent years, following its acquisitions of Chailease Credit Services and the business and operations of The Chinese Bank in Taiwan two years ago.

HSBC's presence in Taiwan dates back to 1885 when The Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation appointed an agent. However, a full-service branch was not established in Taipei until 1984. Hmm, maybe the bank could offer some advice on cross-straits diplomacy.

Prime position

We hear there have been long queues forming outside the German pavilion at the World Expo. But most of thousands of visitors have been men, keen to gawk at the fine-looking etiquette ambassadors manning the nearby China pavilion.