It's rarely a good sign when the media become the headlines. Yet some of the more entertaining stories in recent days have to do with local news outlets.
Last-minute haggling over payment plus some regulatory hurdles have temporarily put on hold a HK$4.7 billion deal to sell Next Media in Taiwan. Next Media's boss, Jimmy Lai Chee-ying, understandably wants to be paid in one go but his Taiwanese buyers prefer instalments. He is making predictable noises about bitter pro-Beijing rival Tsai Eng-meng being one of the buyers, but we can safely predict which way he will swing with the deal when it's a choice between keeping out Tsai and taking home an estimated HK$3.25 billion for Christmas.
Meanwhile, in what must be a first in Hong Kong's broadcasting, ATV last week made its dancers and artistes do literally a song and dance at the government headquarters to protest against issuing any more TV licences. The disgraceful event was broadcast live, prompting thousands of complaints in the following days.
Key ATV investor Wong Ching claimed it would be against the public interest to have more free-to-air TV stations, citing the dangers of "Taiwanisation" and "politicisation", whatever these mean. The new licence applicants don't seem to be interested in political programmes at all. One thing we can guess for sure: the ne'er-do-well station might not survive in a more competitive environment in the free-to-air broadcasting market. Given the quality of its programmes, it's not clear its disappearance would not be in the public interest.
It's ironic both tycoons, poles apart in their politics, criticise democratic Taiwan with their own self-serving agendas. Lai, that dark prince of yellow journalism, has described his withdrawal from Taiwan as a failure, which he blamed on political pressure. The reality is that the self-styled champion of democracy could not grow his media business in one of Asia's most vibrant democracies.
By contrast, ATV, one of our city's most obsequious pro-Beijing media groups, is running scared of any potential competitors. It seems cozying up to Beijing does not guarantee prosperity or even survival in this town.
People should man up to their own failings instead of blaming everything on politics and Beijing.