City Telecom chairman Ricky Wong Wai-kay slams delay on new licences

City Telecom chairman says he's waited 1,021 days for free-to-air station to be approved, and wants to know if government is playing games

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 18 October, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 18 October, 2012, 3:06am

City Telecom (CTI) chairman Ricky Wong Wai-kay is outraged over the amount of time it has taken the government to approve new free-to-air television licences, saying they have been delayed for more than 1,000 days.

Publicly expressing his fury over the issue for the first time, Wong called on the government yesterday to play by the rules and to process his company's application for a domestic free-television licence at "normal Hong Kong speed".

Wong released his harsh statement after Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development Gregory So Kam-leung took a question on the issue at the Legislative Council meeting. "I found Mr Greg So's empty words regrettable and infuriating," said Wong, who sat in at the meeting.

"A year ago, I could accept So's bureaucracy-speak. A few months ago, I could still tolerate such official mumble-jumble. But now that 1,021 days have passed since our application, I can no longer put up with the [government's] procrastination."

So had spoken in response to a question raised by information-technology-sector lawmaker Charles Mok, who asked about the progress of vetting the free-TV licences, and about suggestions of political concerns in opening up the TV market.

So cited sections of the Broadcasting Ordinance and discussed the development of digital broadcasting, but refused to say when the decisions - to be made by Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying and the Executive Council - would be announced.

CTI submitted its application for the new licence in 2009, after the government decided to open the platform. PCCW and i-Cable Communications also submitted applications.

The then Broadcasting Authority - now Communications Authority - made its recommendations in May last year, but no decisions have been announced.

"Protracted procrastination is not only an act of irresponsibility but, as some might say, a sin," Wong said.

PCCW and i-Cable said they were also still waiting for the results of their applications.

Wong revealed that CTI had invested HK$300 million in the production of programmes and had already produced nearly 100 hours of programming in preparation for the launch of its new television station.

But CTI had to keep delaying its plans, Wong said. He had initially hoped to launch the new station this month, but the target launch date has since been postponed till the middle of next year, dependent on the company being granted the licence.

"The previous government deliberated on the matter without coming to a decision. The current government is even worse, in that it has not yet put the issue on the table," Wong said. "I can now appreciate why more and more of us have become impatient with the government, and more of us have resorted to protests and other confrontational tactics."

In May, after i-Cable had waited two-and-a-half years in vain for its licence to be granted, the company called for a new round of consultations to find out whether more free-TV channels were really what the public wanted. The act was seen as a protest against the government's delay.

But Wong did not join that debate, as CTI still "believed" the government would keep its promise to open the market.