Liberals join with pan-democrats to back HKTV

Party unites with pan-democrats to demand free-TV licence as withdrawal of judicial review aims to force government to explain its decision

PUBLISHED : Monday, 28 October, 2013, 9:16pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 29 October, 2013, 12:02pm

In a rare gesture, Liberal Party legislators and two other pro-establishment lawmakers have linked hands with pan-democrats to sign a petition pressing the government to give HKTV a free-to-air television licence.

The news came as Chinese University announced on Monday that Leung’s score in its popularity index fell to its lowest-ever – 41.7, down 4.2 marks. His cabinet also scored a record low of 42.1, down 3.5 points.

The Liberals signed their names alongside those of 27 pan-democrats under a statement calling on Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying and the Executive Council to revise their decision to grant licences to just two of the three applicants – i-Cable’s Fantastic TV and PCCW’s HK Television Entertainment Company.

Two other pro-government lawmakers may yet sign up, according to pan-democrat co-ordinator Frederick Fung Kin-kee.

The Liberals’ five legislators and non-affiliated Paul Tse Wai-chun also pledged to back the pan-democrats’ second attempt to invoke Legislative Council powers to investigate the decision. The motion will be put to the full council on November 6.

The decision snubbing HKTV saw an estimated 80,000 people attend a protest rally, followed by a week-long sit-in at government headquarters as staff from the station called for an explanation.

Commerce secretary Greg So Kam-leung said on Monday that he had written to HKTV staff on Saturday to “explain the rationale” behind the decision. But a source familiar with the situation said the letter repeated the government’s vague line that “a number of factors had been considered”.

Meanwhile, Philip Li Koi-hop, of political fringe group the People’s Opposition Party, withdrew his application for a judicial review in a bid to corner the government, which has claimed one of the reasons it cannot explain its decision was because judicial proceedings were ongoing.

Although HKTV chief Ricky Wong Wai-kay has said he plans to seek a judicial review, he has yet to file an application, and the station announced an explanation might prevent legal action.

Liberal leader James Tien Pei-chun said: “Granting three licences is the easiest way to defuse this political bomb as requests for a judicial review and Legco inquiry will be withdrawn.”

With TVB and ATV already holding free-to-air licences, Tien added: “From a business perspective, with greater competition, the advertising revenue of the free-TV market is expected to exceed the current figure of HK$3.9 billion. It can accommodate five players.”

Tien brushed aside the Liberals’ failure to support Mok’s first attempt to invoke Legco’s powers in last Friday’s House Committee meeting, saying it was a matter that should be put to the full house. It will only be passed if it wins majority support in both the 35-seat geographical and functional constituencies.