Revolution put on hold as HKTV wins online support but still no licence

But the television station says its plans for a revolution are on hold as it waits for a licence

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 26 June, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 26 June, 2013, 5:13am

More than 500,000 internet users have shown their support for Ricky Wong Wai-kay's television station by watching its online drama premiere, but the prolonged wait for a licence has put what might be a revolution in Hong Kong's television industry on hold.

Artists who have jumped ship to Hong Kong Television Network (HKTV) said they wanted to produce programmes that put the audience first, which they say they could not do with market leader TVB.

"We feel so helpless," said Ai Wai, who worked at TVB for 33 years. "We just don't understand that on one hand, [the government said] the licence would be given as soon as possible. But the Executive Council could suddenly take a day off. Why?"

He said a television revolution was under way: "We are challenging the system."

HKTV made its online premiere 12 days ago, showing the first episode of crime thriller Borderline.

It earned nearly 509,000 hits and rave reviews from users, who praised the quality of filming and depth - a stark contrast to TVB soap operas.

HKTV followed this up with a 30-minute preview of its infotainment programme The Challenge - depicting artists' extreme experiences in nature - at a cinema yesterday.

The preview showed Ai, Lau Yuk-chui and Lawrence Chou Tsun-wai on an expedition into the Son Doong cave in central Vietnam. The seven-kilometre cave is the largest of its kind in the world and houses fossils, desert, forest, terraces and underground rivers. The five-episode journey cost HK$1 million to film.

The journey by the 15-member crew, including the production team and professional explorers from Hong Kong and Britain, took a week. People hired to help carry food, fuel and power generators and act as guides brought the number to 60.

"We hope to be creative, and be responsible to our audience," said award-winning actress Lau.

The 20-year TVB veteran said colleagues there wanted to produce quality programmes but the system demanded that they finish as soon as possible. "TVB focuses more on money, and time is money," Ai said.

HKTV now spends an average of HK$1 million on one drama episode and has spent HK$300 million so far.

Chief executive To Wai-bing said the station was financially healthy and would seek to improve its income through investment.

She said the completion of a multimedia production centre in Tseung Kwan O had been delayed by six months because of design changes. During the annual Filmart movie and television fair in March the station had received requests from potential buyers but was in no rush to sell the shows before they were aired, she said.

Wong said he wanted serious infotainment programmes to set the trend, instead of spoon-feeding viewers dumbed-down content.

In response to requests for the second episode of Borderline, Wong said: "You better ask [Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying]."

He said the second episode would not be shown until he got a licence.

HKTV, Fantastic Television, and HK Television Entertainment applied for licences between December 2009 and March 2010 but no timetable has been given for approval.