City Telecom chief steps up pressure for new free-to-air television licence
City Telecom chairman will lobby politicians to get government approval for free-to-air channel
Vivienne Chow and Gary Cheung
City Telecom (CTI) chairman Ricky Wong Wai-kay will step up the pressure on the government to grant new free-to-air television licences after waiting more than 1,000 days and investing HK$300 million.
The South China Morning Post learnt that the new administration had yet to discuss the granting of free domestic television licences, which three telecommunications operators including CTI had applied for under the previous government.
Wong said he would lobby politicians to gain more public support for the case.
"This is infuriating," Wong said on radio yesterday.
"Whether to give a licence depends on: one, public opinion; two, approval from the Broadcasting Authority [now the Communications Authority]; and three, an assessment of the television market," he said. "I do not see why the government still can't grant us a licence."
CTI submitted its application in 2009 and Wong has since invested HK$300 million setting up a new broadcasting station.
The Post learnt the matter was delayed in the previous government because free-to-air station ATV had sought a judicial review to stop the licence issuance.
The application, although later dismissed by the court, prompted the government to reassess the licensing procedures, said a source familiar with the matter.
The source also confirmed that the matter had not been discussed at any Executive Council meeting since the current administration took office on July 1. "But the issue will be brought back to an Exco meeting in the near future," the source added.
A spokesman for the Commerce and Economic Development Bureau, which oversees media licensing, said it could only wait for the council's decision. But there had been progress, he added.
Wong, who had refrained from publicly criticising the long wait until this week, slammed the unreasonable delay for the second day in a row.
"Commerce Secretary Gregory So Kam-leung had on Wednesday said at the Legislative Council that there was 'progress'. I don't know what kind of progress he meant," said an outraged Wong. "Our demand is very reasonable: at least give us a timetable so that we know what to expect."
Wong did not deny suggestions that his application for the licence had been filed following an invitation to do so from former commerce minister Rita Lau Ng Wai-lan, who had pushed for the opening of a free television market during her time in office.
He said he had no idea whether the delay was due to an attempt by the authorities to restrain freedom of speech.
"I have no insider information," he said. "The previous government discussed this licensing issue but could not reach a decision. But I know it still hasn't been discussed in this government."
The former broadcasting authorities recommended to Exco last year that new free-to-air licences be granted to CTI, Fantastic Television of i-Cable Communications, and PCCW's HK Television Entertainment.