Complaints against ATV show prompt standards review
Television standards will be reviewed as soon as possible after a flood of complaints about a programme on ATV that contained harsh criticism of protesters against the now-shelved national education curriculum.
The Communications Authority promised the review on Monday after issuing a warning to the broadcaster last week that its ATV Focus programme had contravened the Programme Code.
The watchdog received 42,000 complaints – 10 times the number usually received in a year – about the show, five episodes of which included a voiceover making harsh comments about Scholarism, the group of school pupils formed to oppose national education lessons.
It said the programme failed to provide an opportunity for response and to allow a broad range of views to be expressed on the issue, and contained factual inaccuracies.
But it added that since the existing programme code “did not expressly prohibit a licensee from expressing its views in a personal-view programme, and was silent on the format and the presentation”, such a programme did not have to follow the stricter rule of due impartiality, as in news and current affairs programmes.
In a Legislative Council panel meeting on Monday, the authority’s deputy director-general, Vincent Liu Ming-kwong, promised to review the programme code soon.
“Albeit a marginal case, ATV Focus was a personal view programme, and expressing strong views on such a programme is not a breach of the code of practice,” Liu said.
“But we clearly [understood] the public concern, and we knew that some people believed that a warning was too lenient.”
Although ATV will not be fined for its programme this time, its track record will be taken into account when its licence expires in three years, he indicated.
Responding to lawmakers’ queries, Liu added that the authority was investigating ATV’s airing last month of a protest against the issuing of more free-to-air television licences organised by the station’s Asia Club, which attracted another 2,200 complaints accusing the station of abusing the airwaves for self-propaganda.
The result of the investigation is expected to be released early next year.