Wong proves he can draw an audience

HKTV chief stunned by turnout as thousands squeeze into university open-air forum to hear him talk and others watch from the rooftop

PUBLISHED : Friday, 18 October, 2013, 5:52am
UPDATED : Friday, 18 October, 2013, 1:53pm

An audience of 2,000 cheered and applauded as Ricky Wong Wai-kay turned up at an open-air Chinese University forum last night - and those who had been unable to get a seat joined in from a nearby rooftop.

The size of the turnout was Wong's second shock of the week, the first being Tuesday's rejection by the government of his application to launch a free-to-air TV station, an unexplained decision that appeared to have left much of the city equally stunned.

Last night's show of support brought tears to Wong's eyes and he said it made him turn away from thoughts of giving up. Instead, he said, he would remain committed to creative industries.

Wong, who graduated from Chinese University in the 1980s, said he had also been taken aback by the number of people who had shown their support via a Facebook page that is calling for the government to issue Wong's Hong Kong Television Network with a licence.

"The more-than 400,000 likes show people's concern over the fairness of the government's approach," he told the forum, which had been organised by Chinese University's School of Journalism and Communication before the announcement on Tuesday.

The entrepreneur said he was considering transforming Hong Kong Television Network into a production house or turning to the movie industry, among other, "riskier" options. By risky, he clarified he was not referring to a judicial review. "There is no risk in filing a judicial review. You put down several million dollars and that's done," he said.

Wong stressed he did not want to lead a social movement and would not attend this Sunday's protest in support of HKTV. "I can bring more benefits to people as a businessman," said Wong. "I am not a fighter for democracy."

Although there were suggestions that he should launch HKTV on the internet, the option was not commercially viable. Online advertisements could not cover the production cost of HK$1 million-per-episode dramas, he said.

Wong also showed he still had a biting sense of humour. Asked if he would buy ATV, one of the two existing free-to-air stations, Wong cited his preference in buying flats. One had to worry about things not working and rats when buying a second-hand flat; he preferred a clean, new flat.

He also mocked the government: "I don't understand how they do their public relations … they should provide a simple explanation for the rejection and start damage control."

When a student asked him how he would deal with calls from "grandpa" - a nickname for the central government - he responded that his grandfather had died many years ago.

As for whether TVB, the other existing free-to-air licensee, should worry about not having its licence renewed, Wong said drily: "TVB's news programmes are so good. They shouldn't worry."

Students expressed their anger at the lack of transparency over the government's decision and how it trashed their hopes for good TV dramas. There were comments from teachers, too, applauding Wong for his devotion to the creative industry.

Yesterday also saw HKTV supporters stage a small rally outside the government headquarters at Tamar, Admiralty.

The protest on Sunday is being organised by Free TV Action and is expected to attract 5,000 people, including HKTV staff and artistes, who will march from Causeway Bay to Tamar.

They will demand a more transparent licensing procedure; a full account of the reasons behind the decision to award new licences to i-Cable's Fantastic Television and PCCW's HK Television Entertainment; and a Legislative Council investigation into whether there was any political interference.

In a Yahoo Hong Kong online poll, 86 per cent of 80,000 respondents said the rejection of Wong's application was unreasonable.



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