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My Take
PUBLISHED : Thursday, 10 January, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 10 January, 2013, 5:09am

No game-changers in new free-TV stations

BIO

Alex Lo is a senior writer at the South China Morning Post. He writes editorials and the daily “My Take” column on page 2. He also edits the weekly science and technology page in Sunday Morning Post.
 

Officials can fret about licensing new free-to-air television stations. Politicians can make noise and media scholars can talk about how competition will improve programming quality.

I'm sorry, but it won't make any difference in the end. Whether we have two or five such TV stations, they will still be crap. Hong Kong is just too small a market to justify the necessary investment, whatever Ricky Wong Wai-kay says about his fabulous station, which is waiting for a government licence.

I came to this realisation after spending 15 hours watching US programmes on a long-haul flight back home. The choices were lots of recent Hollywood movies and lots of recent episodes of cable television shows like Mad Men and Dexter. And cable beats Hollywood hands down. Those cable shows about twisted 1960s ad executives and a serial killer hunting down fellow killers embody a media genre that has successfully combined art and popularity in the past decade.

Ever since the debut of those anxiety-ridden mobsters in The Sopranos on HBO, cable shows in the US have been in a race to the top. The country's economics made that possible.

Since the wave of mergers of the media giants in the 1990s, their cable networks have consistently been the golden goose. The US has the market size to justify the heavy programming investment, which in turn cultivates real talent, many of whom have become true auteurs like their French cinematic counterparts of the 1960s.

The mainland has the potential market size and talent. Every now and then, even the state-owned stations pull off a winner. But political control simply stifles creativity and private investment.

Freewheeling Hong Kong has neither the market size nor sufficient talent pool. Self-serving as it is, TVB is right in arguing that TV programmes will just degrade if the pool of available content providers and artistes is spread thin among five companies. It's already happening as TVB has complained that its talent is being poached.

It's not a good sign when people are hired with a doubled salary just for being there rather than for any spectacular achievement. Do we seriously think these content providers and actors will do better than what they can't deliver at TVB?

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alan.ho.9847
I don't get Mr. To's argument. He spent 3/4 of this article talking about US cable TV. Then all of a sudden, he made the statement that there are not going to be enough talents to fill all of the five TV companies. I fail to see the connection between the arguments.
Does Mr. To have any statistic to show that the HK TV industry is having problem recruiting talent? How many talent workers are required to make one quality show? As far as I know, TVB is paying their artists and screenwriters just barely above the minimum wages that's why you don't see many different faces on TV. Do know what happened in last night's TVB music awards? It was simply pathetic to watch.
I guess what TV audiences want is more choices and diversification. Great ideas make good TV shows, while whether having famous actors in it or produced by expensive studio tech is less relevant.
SpeakFreely
It is a joke to claim HK as a world Asia city with a handful of radio and TV channels. If you are form outside HK, how can you feel this is a world city? We just have no choices here. Everything you turn on the radio or TV you are bombarded with local news on many nonsense. Come on!
whymak
What on earth is the choice you are talking about? I have dozens of channels on US cable TV. Everywhere I look, I see nothing except low lives, white and other ethnic reality show trash like New Jersey Housewives, Judge Judy, Maury Povich, etc.
Okay, I concede that scum always floats to the top and decadent US cultural import euphemized as soft power is the lowest common denominator. But is it good taste for you to brag about the Atlanta, Georgia 5000 square foot McMansions sold for $130 per square foot, 1200 Calorie greasy burgers and 2.5 ton 10 mile to the gallon SUVs?
Are you suggesting we should toast in banquets with official NASCAR wines, Red Neck (rouge) and White Trash (blanc) wines?
Hong Kong, warts and all, is still the city of choice for many of us.
SpeakFreely
Pandora and Iheartradio are not working in HK, I suggest you guys to tune into Tunein Radio apps to access over 70,000 radio channel worldwide. Forget about HK.

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