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  • Apr 21, 2014
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CommentInsight & Opinion

Is Legco's challenge to Exco on TV licences probe really worth it?

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 05 November, 2013, 12:50am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 05 November, 2013, 12:50am

The TV licensing controversy is still raging after an application with wide public support was rejected. Pressure is building as some lawmakers seek to open documents behind the contentious decision by the Executive Council. Worried about a probe by the Legislative Council if the vote seeking to invoke special investigative powers is passed tomorrow, officials have stepped up lobbying against what may become a precedent for the legislature to investigate Exco.

The government has no doubt done a bad job in explaining its decision. So far it has yet to make a convincing case for rejecting the bid by Hong Kong Television Network led by Ricky Wong Wai-kay but approving two other pay-TV operators to enter the free-to-air market. The latest reason given is that the advertising revenue, according to a consultancy study, can barely support two newcomers in addition to existing players TVB and ATV and that Wong's overall scores were the lowest among the three. However, the public is unable to judge for themselves whether this is the case since the details are withheld under the cabinet's confidentiality rules.

Questions have been raised whether a Legco probe is the right way to pursue the matter further. The Legislative Council (Powers and Privileges) Ordinance has been described as an "imperial sword". That it has the power to open up files and summon officials to give evidence means the law is reserved for extreme circumstances.

Over the years, the powers have only been invoked in connection with major incidents, such as the chaos that ensued when the new airport opened in 1998 and the outbreak of the deadly severe acute respiratory syndrome in 2003. None of the inquiries was targeting specific decisions made by Exco. The vote tomorrow is to compel the commerce minister to appear before Legco together with all papers relevant to the cabinet's decision. Officials are making a last-ditch effort to avert the probe by explaining more.

The issue goes beyond television licensing. The executive, legislative and judicial arms have clear roles and functions under the Basic Law. The Legco attempt is a direct challenge to the executive arm, in that it will seriously undermine the long-standing operations of Exco. The fundamentals of governance will also be put to question if the decisions of the executive arm are open to review by Legco. Given that the decision is likely to be contested by the failed applicant in court, lawmakers should weigh the implications carefully before voting.



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The people of Hongkong, both its nationals and residents, are entitled to an open and honest explanation from the government/EXCO on the basis and fairness of their decision in not granting HKTV its license. Todate this has not been forthcoming and any attempt by C.Y. Leung and his minister falls short of telling the truth. LEGCO should indeed take the precedent to compel EXCO to be accountable. This is a right step for democracy - to ensure the actions of the government is accountable to its nationals and residents, who after all contributes to the success of Hongkong.
To those who has the interest to read the exchanges here, please read in full and not just the one that comes first.
Do you yourself watch TV daily? I doubt it. I doubt it if you are even a resident here.
Your arguments are ALL skewed towards attacking the govt more than examining the reasons behind the decision.
I am sure we don't know each other, how can you assume I don't watch the TV daily? as a matter of fact, I do. Isn't your view also skewed in your own way?
As to your comment that my views are skewed towards attacking the gov't and not the reasoning behind the decision. I shall be enlightened to know how much you know the reasoning behind the gov't decision? Are you an insider in the government or one of the privileged few who are being shown confidential documents or have met with the Chief Executive himself?
Sorry, to make things clear, I am commenting on this newspaper's editorial end-note not the state of the affairs involving the entire process of the license issuance. That,I am sure, will take at least another 10,000 words from my side.
If you do not like the existing powers vested by Exco - a colonial relic, in fact - too bad, this is the Hong Kong left by the British when it reverted to "Chinese rule." This defacto cabinet system along with the rule of law has guided the city thus far in its huge success and prosperity.
What the editorial is warning is that the existing executive powers will be rendered impotent once this sort of "challenge" is mounted, setting a precedent for such challenges every time an "unpopular" decision is made. HK will then be ungovernable, chaos will reign, and capital will flee. By then, the license so cherished by Ricky would be worthless........
Of course, this is what some foreigners would like to see before 2017.
haha, u still haven't said whether u are resident here!
Once again, you are distorting the argument with a very obvious anti-foreign perception.
Mind you, while you demand to know whether I am a local resident of which you are lavishly taken the liberty to assume I am not (what a laughable subjective attitude). I also assume you are not one of us who are born, educated and worked here in HK all our lives. I have a very keen sense that you belong to those professional net surfer who are paid to rebuke anyone who said anything against the government as you put it.
I didn't say I do not like the system and the fact that I criticise the current situation means I want to overthrow the the government overnight. The warning given by the article is unfounded in my opinion; that is on balance of weighing what is more important: a check on an unpopular decision. If the government is so afraid of being challenged in their every subsequent decision, they should improve their quality of governance and not to shun people from criticising it.
Honger, if you are from the mainland, I don't blame you but if you are a hk local doing this business, I will certainly it is a rather disgraceful attitude.
A challenge to Exco is the last resort. Officials have been given plenty of opportunities to explain the decision but they hide behind the 'exco confidentiality' so Legco is given no choice but to compel Exco to bare all. If the government gets away with this who knows what they might next come up with? I am pretty sure the British wouldn't have done the same in the colonial days and the public is more eager than ever to have an accountable government.
If we are afraid that a Legco challenge to the Exco decision will set a bad precedent; we should fear even more in setting an even worse precedent by letting go a bad decision unchallenged; a decision that affects every HK household, in the seemingly good excuse of being cautionary.
I don't agree with this editorial's end note.
Specifically, to quote : "The Legco attempt is a direct challenge to the executive arm, in that it will seriously undermine the long-standing operations of Exco."
1. why should we be afraid to challenge a specific Exco decision simply for want of maintaining the "long-standing operations of Exco"? ~ if the Exco decision has proven to be prima facie unreasonable and has itself broken the "long-standing" tradition of HK being an open society?
2. if we forego the rights of checks by Legco, which is by far the most representational body in the HK's constitutional institutions albeit itself in a **** state of affairs given the small populace represented by the functional constituencies, in an obvious case of poor quality of governance; should we implore why should we have the Legco at all?
3. The fundamental flaw in the issuance of the new TV licenses lies in the fact that the government has taken up the role of deciding the fate of commercial TV operators in place of the market. Since when have we backtracked to a planned economy. And if the 15-odd members that formed Exco is not capable in making sensible decision on behalf of the 7million+ people that called HK their home, why can't we be a little "too bold" to challenge the status quo.
3. Cautions is a virtue but can be a necessarily evil to brew complacency and self-indulgence.


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