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  • Sep 23, 2014
  • Updated: 3:19am
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TV licence row heads for court showdown as CY Leung refuses to budge

Rejected free-to-air applicant Ricky Wong vows to apply for judicial review as CY Leung insists government procedure met legal requirements

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 22 October, 2013, 7:17pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 23 October, 2013, 3:07pm

The government and disappointed television licence applicant Ricky Wong Wai-kay are set for a court showdown after he and Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying crossed swords yesterday.

Leung said the government had sought legal advice, including that of a Queen's Counsel, to ensure the procedure for granting the free-to-air licences complied with legal requirements.

But Wong, head of Hong Kong Television Network (HKTV), said he would apply for a judicial review in two or three weeks in an effort to prove otherwise. He said his legal advice was that he had a good chance of winning.

Before attending an Executive Council meeting yesterday, Leung received a letter of protest from about 200 HKTV staff over its exclusion in favour of iCable's Fantastic TV and PCCW's Hong Kong Television Entertainment Company.

In a subsequent press briefing, he insisted the government favoured a gradual approach in issuing licences and "rejecting no one" was not part of its policy.

"We alerted the three applicants in advance about our inclination. It was not when Exco made the decision that we started adopting the principle," he said.

While some executive councillors have sought to distance themselves from the controversy, Leung said the decision to reject HKTV was a collective one.

But Wong said he did not hear until he received a letter from the government in May that all three licences might not be granted.

He said changing the "rules of the game" without a public consultation would constitute unreasonable governance, which he believed would be a strong basis for a judicial review.

"The chief executive should consult the public if there's a change of policy. Who rules: the law, the policies, or the chief executive?"

Wong has said a woman official called him in 2009 inviting him to apply. Yesterday he said the official had said clearly that as long as HKTV fulfilled the basic requirements it would qualify. "How can the government not issue a licence [now]?" he asked.

Rita Lau Ng Wai-lan was commerce minister in 2009.

Asked how much he was prepared to put into legal battles, Wong said that after suspending all productions, "I don't need to spend HK$1 million on a drama episode any more". He said that as of February, HKTV had more than HK$2 billion in cash.

The Commerce and Economic Development Bureau, meanwhile, said it was not a policy for the government to give out a licence to every applicant. It said the Chief Executive in Council made the decision after considering all factors, such as the sustainability of the market.

Former secretary for commerce, industry and technology Joseph Wong Wing-ping challenged Leung's remarks yesterday, saying the government had never adopted a "gradual and orderly approach" in introducing competition to the TV market.

"If the government invents a new policy ... they should pass it to Communications Authority and let them conduct a public consultation first," he said.

"Leung's administration has violated the usual policy-making process and the practice is very abnormal."

 

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This article is now closed to comments

kpamok
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lbsaw
C.Y. Leung should not procrastinate in simply providing the reasons why HKTV was not granted a license. His handling on this matter will cost him to lose many of his supporters if he continue to be evasive in his handling. It never stop to amaze me why the HK government is always so slow to act decisively and to the contrary allow itself to be lambasted with an increasing anti government feeling from its nationals (and probably from citizens of other countries).
ling2777
I think this issue is no different from tenders of any kinds. The best wins. I don't see the freedom of expression is affected in any way.
chuchu59
There is some difference. The tender is usually awarded to the highest bidder or the one with the lowest price depending on what the service or product is. This means its usually dependent on price or rather$ though there may be other considerations.Tenderers have a right to klnow the main considerations so they can submit a suitable tender. On the TV issueits a simple 'no' to HKTV with no reasons provided. The decision was reached on a subjective basis it seems whereas most tenders have a set of objective criteria to work on.
It should not be too difficult to spell out why HKTV failed in its bid without disclosing confidential information on the other 2 competitors. Surely our Government has people who can summarise these things well. Right now, each spokesman is at pains to provide a simple reason and simply mentions'You gotta believe us'.
Trampoline.c.c@gmail.com
i think the govt wouldn`t make a careless decision over this hot issue, i believe there are some stories behind that. it is said Ricky Wong is going to take advantage of the broascasting medium to provoke the public`s emotion of anti-govt..if they rumor is true, how embarrassingly the govt will be when speaking out to public. i am also not taking sides, but my preception tells me that some plots are brewing since the ricky`s first huge investment into the sunset industry....
impala
You just seem to be making things up out of thin air. Firstly, HKTV's intention was/is to provide a pure entertainment channel. No news. No current affairs. Game shows. Dramas. Reality TV. What could possibly be anti-government about that.

Secondly, while many see it as a sunset industry, TVB alone made more than 1.7 billion HKD in profit in 2012. It is big business my many starred friend. So look no further for a motive of the couple of ExCo members to **** over Mr Wong, and protect he likes of TVB and the two new pro-Beijing tycoon-owned channels to be: protect vested economic interests.

What will they get in return you ask? Favourable coverage of course. Not too much criticism, and plenty of feel-so-good-to-part-of-China-again stuff. Especially when we get closer to the 2017 elections, I am sure those grateful channels will be filled with love and praise for CY & Co.
impala
While I hope that Mr Wong ultimately wins his battle with the crony incompetents in Admiralty and in particular with the Chief Nitwit, if he is wise, he just gives them all the big finger and takes his whole venture online.

There is nothing to stop him from launching a live/on-demand 'channel' available through the web, mobile apps and so on. There is good technology available these days to insert advertising that can't be skipped, prevent unlicensed copying of content, and so on.

At leas then, the HK people will get their HKTV content, while the sad and sorry likes of ATV and TVB can sink into oblivion on their over-regulated, over-protected free-to-air frequencies.
newyorkgirl
CY's stance and attitude toward Ricky Wong gives me a feeling that this is persona not rational. Could they have crossed swords before?
dynamco
'as of February, HKTV had more than HK$2 billion in cash'
whose cash will that be?
he already spent a billion and all the eggs in the basket will not be his own:
herein lies the probable reason - which major shareholder other than Ricky does Govt (or rather their puppet masters north of here) not want to have the investor fingers in free to air TV content ? is the investor the one previously banned from setting up clothing stores in the Mainland + who sold his television interests in Taiwan?
honger

I am surprised that this cunning Mo Tung is into TV - a fading medium with the advent of the internet media. The advertising growth for this medium is shrinking - together with the print medium - and will shrink further.
Why does Wong want to involve himself in this sunset industry? Who are his backers? Where did the $2 billion come from? What else is in the agenda?
I am not taking sides, but I do not agree with his attacks on TVB and his former employer ATV. His scathing remarks about TVB's drama quality came before he lured half their crew away with 30 percent pay rises.......

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