Albert Cheng agrees to sell his stake in Digital Broadcasting Corporation

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 23 December, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 23 December, 2012, 4:55am

A breakthrough has finally been reached in the months-long Digital Broadcasting Corporation dispute, with its co-founder yesterday confirming his plan to sell his stake to a Beijing-loyalist fellow shareholder.

A contract would be signed by the end of the month with Bill Wong Cho-bau, DBC co-founder Albert Cheng King-hon told Cable TV yesterday. The contract would not set any conditions that would curtail its radio hosts' freedom of speech, Cheng said.

"It was a helpless situation. [Selling off DBC] brings an end to the matter," said Cheng. "Wong has promised to employ the old hosts who used to work in DBC."

Cheng did not divulge how much money was involved but said he would invest the sale proceeds in another internet radio broadcaster. He said he did not know when DBC would resume broadcasts.

A lawmaker voiced concerns about the possible political motives behind Wong's buyout of DBC, fearing that the city's first digital broadcaster would lose its freedom of speech.

"It's a sad story and the matter has yet to come to an end," Civic Party legislator Claudia Mo Man-ching said.

"The whole saga is not simply a dispute between shareholders; there is a political motive for Wong to call off dissenting voices from the radio he owns," she said. "There is still the question of whether DBC can maintain its editorial independence."

DBC, which began full operations in May, is under a 30-day sanction issued by the Office of the Communication Authority after it ceased broadcasting on October 21.

DBC's licence conditions state that its seven channels must broadcast around the clock and provide at least 50 hours of non-Cantonese programmes a week.

A lack of operating capital caused the interruption, after Wong allegedly reneged on an agreement to inject an additional HK$50 million into the station's operations.

Wong has maintained that his moves were based entirely on business considerations, but Cheng claimed that Wong refused to invest more in the station after receiving instructions from an official at the central government's Hong Kong liaison office.

Cheng accused Wong of helping the central government silence dissident views, and each sued the other over the dispute. In October, Wong obtained a court order allowing him to appoint two accountants to take over DBC's operations.

Complications set in when activists released a tape recording in which a man identified as Wong says "Ah Peng" had told him that the liaison office would not want radio host Lee Wai-ling - an outspoken government critic - to be hired at the station. The liaison office director at the time was Peng Qinghua.