All eyes will be on ATV, says minister

Gregory So warns station that authorities will be watching whether it complies with order to stop interference from investor Wong Ching

PUBLISHED : Monday, 26 August, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 26 August, 2013, 5:50am

Authorities would suspend or even revoke the broadcasting licence of Asia Television (ATV) if the station failed to comply with instructions to stop investor Wong Ching from interfering in its day-to-day operation, Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development Gregory So Kam-leung said.

On Friday, the Communications Authority ordered ATV to remove executive director James Shing Pan-yu from his post by September 2 after he helped facilitate undue interference from Wong in the station's management. The company was also fined HK$1 million.

"I hope that ATV will comply with the instructions issued by the Communications Authority to the benefit of the broadcasting community," So said after a launch ceremony for the amended Trade Descriptions Ordinance yesterday.

Responding to concerns that Wong could continue to exercise control over the station by appointing another representative, So said that the instructions from the Communications Authority had been very clear.

Wong must not substantially control the operation of the station, and he believed the government had comprehensive regulations in place to monitor performance. So said the authority had required the station to submit a report on the issue in three months, and an annual report to follow up.

According to the station's licensing terms, Wong, who has been a major investor but not a shareholder or a director of ATV, cannot exercise control over thestation.

But the authority found in its year-long investigation that Wong had given instructions on its daily affairs, including on its programme production.

It [the authority] also found evidence showing Shing misled the investigation by providing amended versions of minutes of weekly management meetings in order to play down Wong's role in the decision-making.

"They [the authority] have duly and objectively followed and investigated this issue, and issued the instruction according to section 24 of the Broadcasting Ordinance," So said.

The station can lodge an appeal against the order to the Executive Council within 30 days.

ATV applied for a judicial review last year to stop the authority from releasing its findings from the investigation, but the Court of Final Appeal dismissed the application on August 15.

Chairman of the Communications Authority Ambrose Ho Pui-him said last week that ATV's licence would expire in 2015. The station will need to apply for renewal of its licence by the end of November. So said the authority had not yet received a renewal application from ATV.