• Sun
  • Dec 28, 2014
  • Updated: 11:46am
CommentInsight & Opinion

Hong Kong deserves better free TV

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 19 October, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 19 October, 2013, 12:00am

To say the public is fed up with the free television industry is an understatement. For decades, millions of people have had only two broadcasters to choose from. And for the past 20 years there have been just two pay TV stations. Thanks to digitalisation, dozens of channels are currently available. But the numbers still lag other world cities. Tokyo citizens have six national networks plus many regional stations. The need for more choice and competition is clear.

After more than three years, the government finally approved in principle two of them - i-Cable's Fantastic TV and PCCW's HK Television Entertainment Company. But the welcome news was overshadowed by the rejection of Ricky Wong Wai-kay's Hong Kong Television Network, seen by many as a strong contender. The refusal surprised some people. A Facebook page for Wong's bid so far has attracted some 470,000 "likes". A mass protest and a court challenge are under way.

While it awaited licence approval, Wong's company had already outdone the two eventual winners by spending HK$900 million and creating hundreds of hours of productions, some of them shown on the internet for free. Unfortunately, the rejection prompted the sacking of 320 staff. Wong and his team are entitled to a full explanation. The strong public reaction shows that people are also disappointed by the decision.

Unlike the two winners, which currently run Now TV and Cable TV, Wong's company lacks broadcasting experience and infrastructure. As commerce chief Greg So Kam-leung said, the decision was made after considering an array of factors rather than just programme quality. Wong's outspoken style also gave rise to much speculation. So denied suggestions that political considerations played a role in the decision. Further assurances on this front would be helpful.

The government said it did not rule out issuing more licences as and when appropriate. But it has yet to justify why the market, as recommended by its consultant, can only accommodate four players at most. Nor can it give a clear timetable for opening up further under a so-called gradual and orderly approach. Unless there is a clear commitment, officials risk being accused of protecting vested interests.

There can be no dispute that the public deserves better free TV entertainment. The government should closely monitor the performance of the two existing broadcasters and ensure the new players can enhance competition, quality and choice.


More on this story

For unlimited access to:

SCMP.com SCMP Tablet Edition SCMP Mobile Edition 10-year news archive



This article is now closed to comments

The bright spark who thought the phrase 'gradual and orderly approach' was a sensible reason for this very poor decision should be sacked. Actually, the whole Government and all principal civil servants should go too!
who is the secret 'consultant' ?
we need to see the report since public money paid for it.
Or did the Govt provide the report 'Conclusion' paragraph and let the consultant write around it ?
If someone is willing to provide 30 free TV channels + accept the commercial risk to fail then why not let him do so ?
Obviously if a broadcaster provides 30 quality channels it will attract advertising (rather than watching Newsline on ATV)
'Hong Kong deserves a Better Government'

How about that as an apter headline for your editorial?
Can you imagine if the current crop of clowns were running an actual country instead of a city of 8 mil?
hk has the worst tv and radio in the region. even philippines and thailand, supposedly poorer countries have far better tv and radio.
can never understand....
Another example of the incompetent decisions from our dysfunctional ministerial system. Fire all ministers and their deputies and leave the CE, the CS and the FS to set policy implement by the civil service. Beijing can still replace the top 3 positions as they please but we would at least be spared the seemingly non-stop excuses/PR we get from the ministers et al for their failings.


SCMP.com Account