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Public outcry over rejection of Ricky Wong's free-to-air TV licence bid

Politicians and 410,000 on Facebook demand explanation as entrepreneur says he was asked by government to join bidding process in 2009

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 16 October, 2013, 9:47am
UPDATED : Thursday, 17 October, 2013, 7:05pm
 

Officials faced mounting public pressure yesterday to explain why they denied Ricky Wong Wai-kay's company a free-to-air television licence.

The shocked telecoms entrepreneur revealed that he joined the race for a licence in 2009 at the invitation of the government.

But his was the only bid to be rejected on Tuesday when the granting of free-to-air television licences to two other players - pay-TV operators PCCW and i-Cable - was announced.

They will compete with existing players TVB and ATV.

The award of licences only to PCCW's HK Television Entertainment Company and i-Cable's Fantastic Television caused a public outcry online and in radio talkback shows.

Politicians and nearly 400,000 people who signed a Facebook petition demanded that the government give a full account of the reasons for denying Wong's Hong Kong Television Network (HKTV) a licence. Thousands vowed to protest at government headquarters on Sunday.

Commerce minister Greg So Kam-leung said a consultants' report - which the government has not made public - predicted the city could not support five television stations.

But Wong, who said 320 of HKTV's 500 staff would lose their jobs at the end of this month, described the decision as unjust and "against the public".

He said the government provided no explanation for why he lost out and he did not know the rules had been changed, from having an unlimited number of licensees to choosing two out of three applicants.

The government told legislators in a 1998 paper that "under the new technology-neutral licensing regime, there would be no limit on the number of domestic free licences issued".

Wong said he was contacted by a very senior government official four years ago.

"In 2009, the government called me to invite me [to bid]. On December 31, 2009, we submitted the application," he said.

Wong would not confirm that the official was the then commerce minister, Rita Lau Ng Wai-lan, because it was possible a court would review the decision.

Meanwhile, Philip Li Koi-hop, the chairman of the fringe political group, the People's Opposition Party, filed an application for a judicial review.

A government source said: "As lawsuits are looming, the government has to be cautious in explaining the rationale behind its decision, apart from stating general principles."

Wong defended the quality of HKTV's bid. "We are the most qualified among the three applicants. We focus on entertainment, which is what Hong Kong lacks," he said.

But So pointed to HKTV's plan to operate as many as 30 channels and questioned whether it had the experience to do so or could be competitive. Wong said: "If we are not up to standard and if our score is low, show us the score sheet.

"If this just ends like this, does Hong Kong still have justice?"

A member of the Communications Authority's broadcast complaints committee, Simon Ho Sai-hau, demanded a government explanation, saying it was not the administration's job to ensure a television operator's survival.

Wong said he had no plans to acquire other stations or reapply in 2015 when the licences for TVB and ATV expired.

Video: CY Leung at Legco on the free-to-air ruling

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This article is now closed to comments

Yingnam Fong
Even if the rules of the game is for the government to conduct the pre-qualification via negotiation to shortlist a list of bidders for consideration, there is no guarantee that there will not be a policy change in the final stage of evaluation. In Wong's case, the death cause must be related to the sudden need to tighten up of the control over the freedom of speech in Hong Kong to avert a louder voice being made by the pan democratic and its fans.
gofeiii
From industrial perspective, this decision is bad as it’s not convincing to conclude Hong Kong television market could not sustain five TV stations as the initial purpose of the license bid is to stimulate competition.
From marketing perspective, this decision is bad as it’s a missed opportunity to give marketers more choice and bargaining power in negotiations.
From HK citizens’ perspective, this decision is bad as what we desperate for is not purely a license for HKTV, what we want is a government who genuinely listens to and represents the public interest.
scmpcuty
Yup, it is now time to pack up and go. These ongoing sad events happening one after the other...with the pollution, with the mainlanders overriding everything from milk formulas to kindergardens, to trying to build stupid hotels in the Peak and demolishing our country parks, to controlling the media and using scare tactics.....now this. Seriously, i have never really participated in a demonstration but all this pent up anguish and frustration of seeing HK losing it and getting choked up makes me want to join the Sunday protest. Enough is enough!!
mercedes2233
For everything? Referendums to be issued every week?
ca.can.14
Sad but true...."Hong Kong is dying..."
check this...
****www.facebook.com/supporthktv
sudo rm -f cy
Meanwhile, floundering ATV has received another $22 million bailout from its Communist masters. When the government says that the market only has room for four TV stations, what they're really saying is, "...and we hope that our propaganda mouthpiece remains one of them."
Yingnam Fong
Before award of contracts, the procurement agent (government) has to make available the user requirement, conduct market check to widen the scope of sourcing, issue invitations for the tenderers to bid, conduct briefing sessions to clarify the terms and conditions of the requirements, conduct evaluation of bids through shortlisting at a different stage, conduct further clarification on the offers if required, conduct price negotiation if necessary, draw up a recommendation for consideration by appropriate authority (usually in the form of panel for high value bid), and issue letters of acceptance to confirm the award of contracts later on. In the course of above, I don't know why HKTV had moved on into heavy investment before they knew the tender result. Now HKTV has said that they have suffered some sort of damage due to perhaps the misleading information from officials. Well, it that is the case, sue them by all means after consulting their lawyers! But, that is not usually the case.
ahseong
Since when is a submission of bid in a tender a guarantee that one will win? Hong Kong people are, as Ex-president Jiang said: simple minded and naive!
ahseong
If that's true, it's a case for the ICAC!
L.L.
??? What is the real reason? Money? or Quality? What about learn it to share? 2 have get it, 100%, let's share 33% each... or Chinese like more monopoly game? or they have no compassion? Share is nothings wrong? it's not mean u are a small/little... It's now... new time, world, new sender time... Learned to share share share... get more free time to get some VERY GOOD STUFF (PROGRAM) FOR TV... at less stress... that count... a good tv-show... ?!
freedom speak...

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