Government stays clear as digital broadcaster DBC goes off air

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 11 October, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 11 October, 2012, 4:44am

The government says it will not meddle in the dispute among Digital Broadcasting Corporation shareholders, keeping out of a row which has led to the downfall of the digital radio station.

The four-month-old station aired its final programme last night after an 11th-hour deal for a change of ownership failed to materialise. Thirty fans gathered outside the station to take photographs.

Co-founder Albert Cheng King-hon had called upon the government to serve as a mediator among shareholders, who could not agree on funding, but Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development Gregory So Kam-leung said the government had no role to play.

"It is debatable if the government should interfere in a quarrel among shareholders of an institution," So told a Commercial Radio programme yesterday. He said appropriate steps would be taken if DBC broke its licensing terms - to provide round-the-clock programming on seven channels in its first year.

A Commerce and Economic Development Bureau spokesman said the Office of the Communications Authority had received written notification yesterday afternoon from DBC about the station's cessation of operations from 8pm last night.

Station chairman Bill Wong Cho-bau said he learned about the station halting its services only from the media. Liquidating the company could yield enough cash to settle salary and severance payments, he said. The station has yet to pay full salaries to all staff.

Chief executive and board member Morris Ho Kwok-fai, together with Cheng and Ronald Arculli, proposed buying Wong's stake at a 50 per cent discount or selling him theirs on the same terms. But Wong rejected their offer and made no counter offers. Wong hit back, saying Cheng had refused to provide documents to prove the financial soundness of the company. Any change of ownership should come only after an audit of the station's balance sheet, he said.

Last night programme hosts bade farewell to fans on air, and some called on listeners to provide funds so Cheng could take the dispute to court.

Former lawmaker Andrew Cheng Kar-foo said on air that some staff would like to host programmes without pay next week. Cheng acknowledged their goodwill, but said manpower issues had to be considered first.