ATV - Asia Television Limited

ATV executive abruptly quits

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 04 March, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 04 March, 2012, 12:00am

Troubled Asia Television faces yet another shake-up after its senior vice-president announced on his microblog that he was quitting, just months after joining the station.

Internationally acclaimed journalist Cheng Yizhong (pictured) announced his resignation on his Sina Weibo microblog early yesterday. He joined the station in July.

'As the decision maker and I have totally different ways of thinking and style, I have decided to quit my job as senior vice-president. Different minds, different paths,' he wrote. He did not specify who the 'decision maker' was, but it probably referred to the station's major investor, mainland tycoon Wong Ching whose role in ATV's management is under investigation by the Broadcasting Authority.

An ATV spokesman confirmed that Cheng left his job on Thursday for personal reasons, but refused to comment further. Cheng would not comment yesterday.

His resignation is the latest blow to hit a broadcaster riven by suggestions of interference from its main investor and boardroom battles over its finances. ATV was fined a record HK$300,000 by the Broadcasting Authority in December for wrongly reporting the death of former president Jiang Zemin in July.

The authority said the station had 'adopted an irresponsible approach' in running the story and had refused to disclose the procedures taken to verify its information.

The Broadcasting Authority's investigation did not find any direct evidence that Wong, a relative of Jiang, was involved. The investor claimed he first heard of Jiang's 'death' from watching his own station.

But a separate investigation into Wong's role in the management of the broadcaster is under way. The results of it are expected soon.

In September, the Court of First Instance ordered the station's management to release financial and other documents to its directors after director Kevin Tsai Shao-chung launched a lawsuit to gain access to the documents, which had been kept from him for more than a year.

The next month, Norwares Overseas, of which Tsai's father Tsai Eng-meng is chairman, filed an application to have the broadcaster liquidated. The Taiwanese snack food tycoon has engaged in a lengthy boardroom battle with Wong for control of ATV.

Cheng enjoyed a high-profile career in print media before joining ATV. He helped found the Southern Metropolis News in 1997 and the Guangzhou-based paper hit headlines worldwide by breaking news of a severe acute respiratory syndrome epidemic in 2003 despite official censorship. It later broke the story of the brutal death of a migrant worker in a Guangzhou detention centre.

After being arrested, fired as editor-in-chief and stripped of his Communist Party membership in 2004, Cheng was awarded the 2005 World Press Freedom Prize by the UN cultural body Unesco. Most recently, he was vice-president and executive publisher of monthly magazine Asian Business Leaders.

Last week, the South China Morning Post reported the station's rival, Television Broadcasts, is to form a joint venture with state-owned Shanghai Media Group. Li Ruigang, SMG's former boss and the chairman of Shanghai-based China Media Capital, is expected to run the venture from Shanghai.

Li recently resigned as deputy secretary general of the Communist Party's Shanghai Municipal Committee, and Shanghai government officials said earlier that Li was expected to take a senior job at TVB. It was also understood that he would take a position in Hong Kong.