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  • Aug 27, 2014
  • Updated: 5:07pm
NewsHong Kong

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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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.
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.
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.
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!
Unlike the wise masters from the mainland. Some more poison in your fake eggs, genius?
Ricky Wong Wai-kay is a cowboy in the market. He invested heavily and started hiring high profile TV personnel, producing and broadcasting TV series online even before he was granted a license. Apparently he has prepared and keen to go out to kill his competitors in the market but unluckily he is not given a license to do so. All in all, he is not a real businessman as far as real business goes, and I am quite sure that his business plan submitted to the government would just reflect these. He fails simply because his business plan fails, period.
Ricky Wong was just too cocky all along and was pure "stupid" to assume that government would approve a licence for him just because he was already producing tv series and investing millions into HKTV.............pure stupidity.
I don't think Ricky is "stupid" at all. He was so sure of getting a licence because he thought he had the "inside track".
If that's true, it's a case for the ICAC!
I wouldn't set up a restaurant or a stall or a school until I received the appropriate approval. I am amazed that he would spend so much energy and money to equip his TV station before approval was given. I am sorry too for the staff he employed so prematurely whom he now has to dismiss. He took a chance and unfortunately, he failed. Wrong business move.
It is better if government can explain why it rejected Mr. Wong to get the Free-to-air television license in order to show the policy transparency. If not, public would question whether our government add any political factors and other variables inside its consideration or not. If not, this decision can generate a large pressure that can affect the governance in the future. It is so reasonable that people are very doubtful on government officials' decision making. Because the sound from public is really clear that they want to have more TV companies without monopoly by two. However, government seems not to hear their voices as well as opinions.
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!!
邏輯在哪裡?如果香港10大有錢人各人花一億元聘請演員製作電視節目,然後申請香港電視牌照, 香港政府是不是必須強制給予他們每人一個新電視牌照?這意味添加十大新的電視台? 花多少錢在電視牌照申請是申請人自己的業務決策,香港政府不可能負責您的企業決策責任。 Where is the logic? if the ten most wealthy people in Hong Kong each spend one hundred million to hire artists and produced television program, does that mean hong kong government are required to grant each of them television licenses? That means ten more television stations? How much money an applicant spent on the television license is their own business decision, Hong Kong Government cannot be held liable.
The logic is the government should clearly explain why Ricky Wong fails.
The logic would be the public gets the right to choose who stays and who goes.
Does that means every decision made by the government should be put in to a public referendum ? What ever happen agency responsibility?
For everything? Referendums to be issued every week?
the sun also rises
The most probable reason that the HKTV of Mr.Ricky Wong Wai-kay was denied a free-to-air TV license though the other two competitors were both granted even their conidtions could never match his is:Mr.Ricky Wong has offended the boss of C.Y.---the Chinese Communist Party government in Beijing by saying that ATV ( in 2008) would never become another CCTV (China Central Television which is controlled by the government and serves as its mouthpiece) when he was the CEO of ATV (just 12 days only).Besides, he offened C.Y.himself by complaining that he finally realised why the anger and dissatisfaction of the public towards the Leung administration while airing his voice for the prolonging of the issue of new free-to-air TV licenses ! Mr.Greg So Kam-leung claimed that no political reason(s) was/were behind the decision of the administration and Exco.He is lying indeed !
John Adams
I think the government collusion with the tycoons has just finally gone a step too far.
Meanwhile our apparently overstaffed police force ( see Laisee today ) is still investigating the 39 Conduit Road scandal
Anyway , Hong kong tv channels Programs are some of the worst in the world, It looks like French TV in the 1970 's . Nothing interesting on prime time , boring documentaries about monkeys or brain surgery at 8 pm! . morning or afternoon programs are miserable too .
Sad but true...."Hong Kong is dying..."
check this...
Now we know the truth: McKinsey runs HK when Big Brother is tied up with more important matters.
If ATV is allowed to broadcast, it is hard to see why anybody else can't. I have seen school campus TV delivering better stuff than the average ATV broadcast, so it is hard to believe that the reason for rejecting the license application of HKTV was a qualitative concern.
If Hong Kong really cannot sustain 5 TV stations, clearly ATV should be the one to be out from the game. The government's decision is too ridiculous.
So HK cannot support 5 TV stations and HKTV, as the odd man out, gets the boot. PCCW is closely connected with TVB whereas i-cable has some connections with ATV. The Government needs to explain whether they had despatched someone to invite Ricky to apply for a licence. If that had been the case and as a result he made heavy investments he can reasonably expect that his application stood a good chance of being approved. Furthermore, if there was a 1998 paper stating that there was no limit to the number of domestic licences issued, why is it that all of a sudden the Government comes with with a consultancy report stating HK can only have 4 operators. What is the motive behind it? I would expect that Exco or any licensing body for that matter would consider whether an applicant is sincere and from the investment already made HKTV seems to be sincere. Greg had also said Exco took into account programme planning, technical soundness, investment and public opinion in arriving at its decision. I cant see how HKTV is inferior to the other 2 competitors on the latter 2 factors. It has already made billions in investment whereas the other 2 only pledged 'investments'. Public sentiment is seemingly on HKTV's side so I would like to know whether Exco was presented with an opinion survey when deliberating on the merits of each application.
This is just wrong on so many levels. We need more choices not monopolies.
Hong Kong people would be just too naive to believe that the decision was not politically motivated. Arguably not many would refute that CY Leung's accession to his current position was blessed by some influencial mainland officials who have mandates to control or even kill off mass media inclining to opposing political views. Wong certainly is not a person trustworthy in the eyes of mainland officials. The mainland certainly does not want to see a replica of Taiwan TV industry in Hong Kong. Taiwan allows many free TV operators, some of which were keen supporters of DPP (probably for being financed by DPP) which successfully put the recalcitrant Chen onto the presidential seat.
Free market in HK - this is such a ridiculous decision! If The market can't sustain another 3 channels let the market decide which fail!
Ummm let's see - TVB = monopoly, ATV = token 'competition', PCCW = Li Ka Shing (monopoly), iCable = Wharf Holdings (token competition)
HKTV = possible real innovation, actual quality investment, and non-CCTV style...OOPS, no license
Oh, and it's not a crony (i.e. big business) of the government (yet).
its easier to control 2 broadcasters than 3. Very simple
??? 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...
this guy wanted to provide free tv
the Govt quoted a plastic report (ie we pay for it, here is the Conclusion, now write around that) saying there is not enough competition space for 5 channels here blah blah blah (here's another Cyberport deal)
who cares what Govt thinks
that's business
if they cannot sell advertising they will fold
The Govt should have allowed all participants to invest their money & stand or fail
They really are totally incompetent and inept, or following Northern orders
Suddenly I get a feeling this channel is going to be very very good. Not to say TVB who hogs up all the TV talents have bad contents. But let's face it. Ricky Wong can probably do better.
the sun also rises
the decision made by the leung administration together with its Exco might probably be politically affected as this Ricky Wong Wai-kay once demonstrated his stance that ATV wouldn't be run as CCTV on Mainland China when he took up his job as the CEO of the ATV (where he stayed in the post for just 12 days only ). His not-so-friendly attitude adopted towards Chinese authorities might be the vital cause of his failure to be granted a free-to-air TV licence this time.Though the Broadcasting Authority earlier on recommended all three applicants of the free-to-air TV licences be granted, yet in the end, only the two inferior ones to Wong's HKTV Network were given the green lights---------no political consideration claimed by Jack So (secretary for commerce and economic development) can never ease our worries and doubts.The government has to explain publicly and clearly the reason for the rejection of HKTV's application to the public or the prestige and trustworthiness of C.Y.'s government might further plunge ! Just wait and see.
Of course China is the root of all evils, including your hemorrhoid and constipation.
Well you got the first part right but i wouldn't blame them for your constipation.
Let's put it in this way. The lobby of TVB got too strong. Who wants another TV station doing quality TV? Not TVB. All what they serve HK public is, cooking shows, entertainment shows and TV serials which insult your intelligence and boring celebrity (most of the time own raised) kissing a..s. That is the current HK quality TV. So, why HKTV got kicked out? Ask TVB and enjoy your education of dummy TV. I got cable and Now TV and happy that I can receive international TV. TVB? If I want to damage my brain cells or if they broadcast the soccer World Cup.
A government is supposed to promote innovation, progression and entrepreneurship‎, not hinders the society with the agenda of its own officials. The situation here is quickly escalating from a failed business case to a political crisis, further highlighting the incompetence of the executive branch.
The Govt has the job of carrying on its business. It can't do so if its activities are continually challenged. And if Mr Wong chooses to invest heavily before he gets a licence, and loses, he will have to face the consequences of that business decision. It shouldn't be used as blackmail to the Govt. into issuing a licence to him. The TVB staff who joined him will probably be doing some soul-searching on their decision to move so prematurely.
i am sure ricky's massive ego can sustain this blow
all he wants to do is plaster his face everywhere
You may be right about Ricky's ego but he is not the only one to lose out. We all have! Not just by one less TV station but by the lack of transparency on how the decision was made. Its not good for Hong Kong - just another drip in the pool of rising anti-mainland sentiment.
Two out of the four stations are being run by or are going to be run by cheap **** who will continue to create cringe-worthy fare like Miss Asia, Mr. Hong Kong, Hong Kong Loving Hearts 201X and that appalling spectacle of dance protesters in front of Legco. It is just as well that we are not going to be inflicted with another cheap basterd's idea of entertainment.
The editing on this piece is atrocious. Come on SCMP, stop the rot.
Why not let him compete, or others, for that matter? Apart from Ricky Wong, it is the "little people" of Hong Kong getting screwed again. Power-mad government squirrels on parade - yet again! No wonder people want a little bit of democracy to reign in these arrogant government apparatchiks!
You win some, you lose some.............Ricky is the Big loser this time!
Lost without a fair fight.


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