The Communications Authority will review television's code of practice to better regulate personal-view commentary programmes after it received 42,000 complaints against an ATV show.
The watchdog received 47,037 complaints against broadcasters last year, 15 times that in 2011. It said 42,000 of the complaints were about ATV Focus, which had five episodes featuring a voice-over making harsh comments on the Scholarism pupil group that campaigned against national education lessons.
ATV received a warning for contravening the television programme code, mainly for presenting unsubstantiated accusations and failing to provide an opportunity for response. It was later fined for airing a series of biased shows during the free-television licence debate.
Although the station was already penalised for its breaches, the cases revealed the need for a review of such personal-view programmes, the authority said.
In the past, only shows which invited guests to comment on specified topics would fall into that category. The ATV Focus programme did not have guests, but featured commentaries in the form of a voice-over.
The regulator had to look into this new format, Adrian Wong Koon-man, who chaired the watchdog's complaints committee, said yesterday.
Chairman Ambrose Ho Pui-him said there had yet to be a consensus on whether television stations should be allowed to air programmes similar to newspapers' editorials, which have a clear stance.
"There are some topics which involve the interests of the television stations. If they make a programme and air their views, would that be a personal-view programme?" he said.
Such questions would come up more frequently in future, as free broadcasters ATV and TVB will see their licences expire by 2015. In the meantime, the government is considering whether to grant new free-television licences to three applicants - a move both ATV and TVB strongly opposed.
The authority is planning a public consultation on the issue, but a date has yet to be set.