ATV chief James Shing ‘not fit to exercise control’

Communications Authority orders removal of executive director who facilitated investor’s interference in station’s day-to-day management

PUBLISHED : Friday, 23 August, 2013, 7:39pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 24 August, 2013, 5:00am

The Communications Authority has ordered Asia Television to remove executive director James Shing Pan-yu from his post for allowing "investor" Wong Ching to interfere in the station's day-to-day operation and fined the station HK$1 million.

The authority said that it found Wong, also known as Wang Zheng, who is neither a shareholder nor a director, had actual control over ATV's operations. This was in violation of the station's licensing terms.

I'll fight till the last moment for ATV. "God bless Hong Kong. God bless ATV
ATV executive director James Shing Pan-yu

It also found strong evidence suggesting Shing misled the authority by providing "corrected" versions of minutes of weekly management meetings, in the hope of downplaying Wong's role in ATV's management.

The authority passed its findings to the police.

The announcement came after a two-year legal battle between ATV and the authority. ATV attempted to stop it from releasing its findings by lodging a judicial review last year, but the Court of Final Appeal dismissed its application on August 15.

In 2010, Wong submitted a letter of undertaking - which constituted part of the station's licence conditions - to the authority, promising he would not be entitled to exercise de facto control of ATV.

However, an investigation between July 2011 and June 2012 proved otherwise. Minutes of meetings, provided by unnamed interviewees from the station, showed Wong had a direct and active role in daily affairs such as staff discipline, programme production and promotion.

"Wong has given instructions [in weekly meetings] 11 times," the authority's chairman Ambrose Ho Pui-him said, quoting minutes the watchdog obtained from sources.

According to minutes of a 2010 meeting, the candidate list for the Hong Kong Loving Hearts Campaign - a contest selecting the city's unsung heroes - had to be confirmed by Wong.

In another instance he ordered the station's top executives to be punctual.

Shing's credibility came into question as the authority found discrepancies between minutes provided by the unnamed interviewees and by ATV.

Shing was believed to have made amendments to some minutes to downplay Wong's role in meetings. He might also have withheld five important sets of minutes showing Wong gave instructions to staff, Ho said.

The authority also criticised Shing for allowing Wong access to confidential information through a highly unusual "consulting agreement", in which Shing claimed Wong was his own consultant.

Being a facilitator of Wong's undue interference, the authority said Shing was no longer a fit and proper person to exercise control over ATV and must be removed from his role by September 2.

ATV must pay a fine of HK$1 million - the maximum allowed by broadcasting law - for violating licensing conditions.

In a written response to the media, Shing said his family had put HK$1.6 billion into ATV over the past four years.

"I'll fight till the last moment for ATV," he stated, before proclaiming: "God bless Hong Kong. God bless ATV."

Criminal lawyer Stephen Hung Wan-shun said there were suspicions that someone from ATV could have contravened criminal laws by using a false instrument to the station's benefit.