City Telecom staff file lawsuits in 'secrets' row with ATV

City Telecom staff start legal action against ATV after executive director makes further claims over the taking of confidential information

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 27 November, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 27 November, 2012, 10:23am

The row over free-to-air television licences heated up yesterday when City Telecom staff filed libel lawsuits against ATV after it publicly accused CTI chairman Ricky Wong Wai-kay of obtaining confidential information from ATV.

The legal action was revealed after ATV held a press conference to make the allegation against Wong, who was ATV chief executive for 12 days in 2008.

ATV's executive director James Shing Pan-yu said the station was considering whether to sue Wong, who he said had used the information to apply for a free-to-air licence for his company a year after quitting ATV.

Wong immediately called his own press conference to reject the allegation. He said: "I can guarantee that neither I nor my colleagues have ever taken any document from ATV, not even a piece of white paper." Five CTI staff, who joined ATV along with Wong four years ago, filed lawsuits against Shing yesterday, following similar action by Wong last week over earlier allegations.

"I had access to different financial documents during my capacity as ATV's CEO, but neither I nor any of my colleagues took any of this information with us when I left. And such data was never needed to apply for a licence," Wong said yesterday.

"What brilliant ideas would ATV have in its financial information, development plan, programmes or drama plots that would be worth anyone sparing the time to copy?"

Shing said "many people in the administrative level knew" that Wong had taken ATV's financial plan and contract, which were classified as "business secrets".

But he did not reply when asked whether ATV had any evidence to support its allegation. He also said former government information co-ordinator Andy Ho On-tat was suspected to have violated government regulations covering former staff by helping CTI in its fight for a licence.

Ho, who set up a PR firm after quitting the government in July, dismissed the claim and said he had never assisted CTI in lobbying the government or Executive Council members.

It is also understood that ATV fired seven staff yesterday, including senior journalist Ruby Woo, who wrote an article in a Chinese newspaper criticising the handling of the licensing battle earlier this month.

The rest were part-time or intern reporters from the news department, according to an ATV insider. But a spokesperson for the company refused to confirm or deny the sackings last night.

The lawsuits are the latest development in a public spat between ATV and CTI over the licensing issue.

CTI, PCCW and i-Cable applied for new licences three years ago. The Broadcasting Authority, now the Communications Authority, recommended all three be granted licences.

But the Executive Council has yet to give its approval.

On November 11, ATV aired a protest against the issuing of more free-to-air licences organised by the station's Asia Club.

The Communications Authority received 2,200 complaints, with many accusing the station of abusing the airwaves for self-propaganda.

ATV then stepped up the attack by depicting the CTI boss as a devil in its infotainment programme Blog the World, attracting 10 more complaints.