ATV - Asia Television Limited

War of words over TV ratings could be heading to court

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 21 April, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 21 April, 2011, 12:00am

The ongoing ratings row between Hong Kong's two free-to-air television broadcasters looks to be heading for the courts.

Asia Television yesterday challenged the validity of TV ratings research commissioned by its rival Television Broadcasts and the Association of Accredited Advertising Agencies of Hong Kong (HK4As).

ATV says the research was aimed at attacking its performance.

In response, TVB, HK4As and CSM Hong Kong, the research firm that conducts the city's TV ratings research, said they would launch joint legal action against ATV.

ATV senior vice-president Kwong Hoi-ying said attacks on the station could cost it financially.

'As a station's operation hinges heavily on advertising, and hence on ratings, we believe CSM's research could have caused us billions of lost income,' he said, adding that ATV was geared up for legal action.

'We will hit back when attacked. We were just voicing the problems of existing ratings research ... but now we face suppression.'

TVB external affairs deputy controller Tsang Sing-ming said the station, HK4As and CSM would send ATV a legal letter this week demanding an apology and clarification.

'The data is not provided by TVB but an independent third party, and TVB is not the only one commissioning the TV ratings research. HK4As also subscribes to the data because it serves as a reference for them when placing TV ads,' Tsang said.

A HK4As spokeswoman said a decision on how to deal with ATV's allegations had yet to be reached, while CSM said its management was not available for comment.

ATV appears to have been waging the war of words on TV ratings since Wong Ching, a major investor in ATV and a mainland property tycoon, started appearing as the frontman for the station a year ago.

In January, ATV started commissioning the University of Hong Kong's public opinion programme for telephone polls to project the audience size of its programmes.

The method contrasts with CSM's use of the 'people metre' - a device plugged into the television sets of 650 sample households that records viewing habits.

CSM uses the rating point system, in which one point represents 63,600 viewers. The Broadcasting Authority said the Broadcasting Ordinance and the licences of ATV and TVB did not stipulate how to judge audience size.

Meanwhile, the media watchdog is still processing applications for new free-TV licences but no date has been set for a decision.