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  • Jul 12, 2014
  • Updated: 10:01am
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BROADCASTING

TV licensing row shows up fickle policy, critics say

Denial of TV operation to investor Ricky Wong turns spotlight on the government's judgment and stance in opening up the market, critics say

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 17 October, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 17 October, 2013, 8:42am

Questions of judgment and policy consistency hung over the government as critics scoffed at what they saw as a lame explanation of why a high-profile broadcasting investor failed to secure a free-to-air television licence.

Veterans familiar with the industry are unconvinced by a minister's account on Tuesday in granting licences to i-Cable's Fantastic Television and PCCW's HK Television Entertainment (HKTVE) but not to Hong Kong Television Network (HKTV), chaired by media maverick Ricky Wong Wai-kay.

One critic suggested political undertones were at work as Wong had vowed during his 12-day reign at ATV that he would not turn the station into another CCTV, the mainland's nationwide state broadcaster.

On a radio show yesterday, Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development Greg So Kam-leung said HKTV lost in terms of overall competitiveness.

So pointed to the importance of relevant experience. "We are not talking about the filming of one or two dramas, but running a television station," he said.

One marked difference between HKTV and the other two was the number of proposed channels: HKTV wanted to run 30 channels within six years of launch; Fantastic TV and HKTVE had suggested just two, he noted.

The Executive Council reached its conclusion after assessing the financial capability and programme planning of each applicant, he said.

The comments hinted that Wong could have been deemed too aggressive for sustainable development of the market.

Simon Ho Sai-hau, who sits on the Communications Authority's broadcast complaints committee, said that if 30 channels were too many, the government could ask the number to be cut.

Broadcasters commonly ran dozens of channels using shows produced externally, Ho said. As long as the station focused on one or two core channels, it would not strain finances.

Peter Lam Yuk-wah, vice-president of the Televisioners Association, said: "An investor can always hire experienced staff members to help him."

Lam questioned if the rejection was due to political reasons. "The central government may think it's hard to control him."

Political concerns aside, both veterans also pointed to government inconsistencies over liberalising the market.

As early as 1998, the government wanted to open the free-television sector to competition and emphasised that it would not limit the number of licences.

Yesterday, lawmakers got the latest government document that showed the rules of the game had changed over the years without the applicants' knowledge, which probably explained Wong's shock at his failed bid.

According to the document, a consultant had told the authority that the local market might not be able to support five players.

But the regulator was of the view that all three applicants fulfilled the financial and programming requirements and should receive approval. Market sustainability should not be a primary consideration, it said.

Both TVB and ATV opposed the recommendation and Exco, in view of their concerns, decided to introduce new operators in a "gradual and orderly approach" to minimise any adverse impact on the market, the document showed.

Lam said: "The government never informed the applicants of the new approach. In fact, it never told them what the criteria were for determining the winner. Why is it okay to have four television stations but not five?"

 

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This article is now closed to comments

clc2
Get used to decisions being made in Beijing.
the sun also rises
The lame explanations of the government in rejecting the applicaiton of HKTV in getting a free-to-air TV license has really disappointed the majority in town.Many doubt it may probably be a political decision influenced by Beijing which does not want to see a new investor in the media industry which might not be easily controlled as Mr.Ricky Wong is known to be aggressive and wild in pursuing his goals.Besides,he has publicly criticized both Beijing's CCTV and Hong Kong's Leung administration in the past years.
johnsonwkchoi
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 sun also rises
Please express yourself in English as here is a comment column for its readers who choose to read this local English language newspaper.If you can't express yourself in proper English,please turn to local Chinese newspapers' comment column such as Ming Pao's. Okay ?
anson
That's a fair comment, but he has provided an English translation, and all opinions should be welcome.
boondeiyan
Cool, we have found a new use for Exco: central planning.
joyalsofi
"TVB and ATV opposed the recommendation and Exco, in view of their concerns, decided to introduce new operators in a 'gradual and orderly approach'" Buried in the penultimate paragraph we finally get the answer.
dynamco
Judicial Review time
"The government never informed the applicants of the new approach. In fact, it never told them what the criteria were for determining the winner. Why is it okay to have four television stations but not five?"
chuchu59
Spot on. Any of the applicants would have weighed their options had they known the rules of the game had changed. A JR is on the cards.
 
 
 
 
 

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