ATV journalists told to 'tune down' report
ATV journalists yesterday ignored an instruction from their newly appointed news chief to play down a Democratic Party protest over the broadcaster's editorial independence in the aftermath of the station's wrong report on the death of former president Jiang Zemin.
They did so after the instruction was given by senior vice-president of news and public affairs Lau Lan-cheong to vice-president Tammy Tam, who told the news team to make their own decision as she had already resigned, according to a person close to the ATV newsroom.
The incident signifies a widening rift between senior management and the news team of the free-to-air channel following the resignation of at least three senior journalists including Tam and her former boss, Leung Ka-wing.
About 20 democrats demonstrated outside the ATV headquarters at 3.30pm demanding that the broadcaster explain its handling of its report on Jiang.
'Shortly after it, Lau Lan-cheong, who replaced Leung Ka-wing as news chief, instructed the outgoing vice-president Tammy Tam to tune down the coverage,' the source said.
'Tam relayed the message to the duty editors and subeditors and said, 'It is up to you to decide, I am leaving anyway'.'
The protest was reported in detail on the evening newscast, leading the second part of the bulletin after the commercial break. 'The journalists decided to report the protest the way it should be, not playing it up or down,' the source said.
The report aired the views of the demonstrators and a response from an ATV spokesman who said that the station was against interference from a political party and would do its best to uphold press freedom.
Also reported was a letter from the Hong Kong News Executives' Association, which expressed worry over the station's editorial autonomy and the inclusion of sponsored content in news programmes.
The report also interviewed Professor Clement So York-kee, director of Chinese University's School of Journalism and Communication. 'Press freedom is the core value of Hong Kong that it should be fought for not only by journalists but every member of the public, including political parties,' So said.
Democratic Party vice-chairwoman Emily Lau Wai-hing, a former journalist, said an instruction to tune down the news was ridiculous.
'It is clearly an infringement of editorial autonomy,' Lau said.