My Take

HKTV ruckus out of proportion

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 06 November, 2013, 3:46am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 06 November, 2013, 3:46am

I've been a big fan of Ricky Wong Wai-kay ever since he took on PCCW, and before that Hongkong Telecom to lower long-distance call charges in the 1990s. He is exactly the kind of brash, loud and gutsy entrepreneur Hong Kong needs. So I was as upset as anybody when he was denied a free-TV licence. If nothing else, it would have been fun to watch the arrogant but trashy TVB sweat over not two, but three new rivals.

But let's have a sense of perspective and proportion here. The government's decision may be a bad one, but many activists and critics are just going overboard to invoke freedom of speech and expression, transparency, accountability and God forbid, democracy. If that were the case, the government would have to hold open-door meetings on all kinds of licensing decisions.

Seriously, does it really affect your viewing pleasure to have two instead of three more free-TV stations? Do you still watch local TV? On his license application, Wong made it clear his station would focus on drama and entertainment with minimal news and current affairs content.

Last time I checked, the right to watch more soap operas and reality shows is not listed on the United Nations' universal declaration of human rights. To have more choices among crappy TV programmes is not exactly my idea of quality improvement.

The licensing issue is undeniably a matter of public interest. But to rally over a licence denial with tens of thousands of people and to try to invoke the Legislative Council's powers and privileges to investigate all relevant government documents and communications? The row simply does not rise to the level of seriousness as the Sars outbreak which killed 299 people in Hong Kong or the chaotic opening of Chek Lap Kok airport in 1998, two previous cases which led to the rare Legco powers being invoked.

The local free-TV market is bound to shrink at a time of multi-media convergence, and as more people switch to pay TV and internet-based entertainment. The government's decision may be wrong, but it wasn't unreasonable.

So why the mass hysteria? Quite simply, opposition leaders and opportunists are trying to create another political crisis as part of an ongoing campaign to discredit the Leung Chun-ying administration.