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  • Updated: 10:48pm
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Exco chief says HKTV decision reflected 'cautious' approach to local market

With Legco set to vote, convenor suggests that HKTV application may have been rejected due to fears about overcrowded free-to-air market

PUBLISHED : Monday, 04 November, 2013, 6:09am
UPDATED : Monday, 04 November, 2013, 2:36pm
 

Exco convenor Lam Woon-kwong has given the most detailed account yet of why Hong Kong Television Network's (HKTV) application for a free-to-air licence was rejected - three days ahead of a crucial vote by lawmakers on the issue.

Lam said the government had taken a "cautious" approach in denying HKTV's application while approving those of subsidiaries of i-Cable and PCCW.

He cited the view of the government's consultant that, based on existing advertising revenue, the market could "barely support" two new players, in addition to TVB and ATV.

His remarks come amid a tug of war between the government and HKTV staff for the support of lawmakers ahead of a Legislative Council vote on Wednesday that could force an investigation into the contentious licence decision.

"If three new players are being added to the market, in a competition among five licence holders, it is extremely likely that someone would fail," he said on a Commercial Radio show.

Dismissing arguments that the government should leave it for a free market to decide if any player should close, Lam said: "A television station is different from a cha chaan teng, after all.

"It employs at least a thousand people, including many professional and technical personnel. The investment could also amount to … hundreds of million [dollars] a year. Therefore Exco's overall conclusion is that it is better to do it cautiously."

Media reports have said that consultants had identified the beleaguered ATV as the most likely station to fail in the face of greater competition. But without naming any player, Lam stressed that the consultants' view was only one of the Executive Council's many considerations in decision-making.

"The Exco did not consider protecting existing players … [nor] the interest of individual applicants," he said.

Commenting on information technology lawmaker Charles Mok's bid to invoke the Legco (Powers & Privileges) Ordinance to launch an inquiry into the government's deliberations, Lam suggested this could be inappropriate as it would expose "sensitive commercial information".

A majority of both directly elected and functional constituency lawmakers is needed for Mok's motion to be passed. While the vote among directly elected lawmakers seems sewn up in favour of the motion, it is still four votes short of the number required from functional constituency lawmakers.

Ma Fung-kwok, representing the sports, performing arts, culture and publication sector, revealed that while he remained undecided about how he would vote, he might consider taking the matter to court.

"If the government failed to give a proper explanation over the denial of a free-TV licence to HKTV, and the Legislative Council couldn't invoke the Legco (Powers & Privileges) Ordinance, I would consider filing a judicial review," Ma said.

Meanwhile, Tam Yiu-chung, chairman of the Beijing-loyalist Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, said HKTV chairman Ricky Wong Wai-kay should consider buying ATV to show his station's programmes.

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whoaman
'Cautious' = passive, wimpy, scared, afraid to rock the boat, the Mr. Donald 'if it ain't broke don't fix it' (even though it IS broke) mentality, letting the property developers and Heung Yee **** cronies run the SAR
HK gov't = unfortunately, all of the above
XYZ
I wonder how many people realize that non-official Exco members receive a monthly "honorarium" of nearly HK$70K for their part-time advisory role and that the convenor picks up a tidy $111K per month? Nice work if you can get it.
whoaman
Not really work, in the case of this bunch...
Giwaffe
Since when was it the government's business to decide how many TV stations fail in a free, non-state controlled economy?
pure88
All of Hong Kong is censored to favor the governments wishes and support the proper (ie.their) friends/tycoons. I am sure cha chaan teng's in the city have more employees than the tv stations, so why not regulate the amount of those that can be open??
clk2828
It's obvious that the CY administration screwed up and they are scratching their heads to come up with a plausible explanation to oppose public interest and demand for new quality TV channels. The reality is no one will even bother to flick the channel on their TVs to watch the 2 currently granted TV stations and it will still be just TVB taking the monopoly.
bpoon1pc
Again, this is a sensitive issue that very few people can openly talk about the real concern. It is Not about money, Not about competition, Not about 2 or 3, Not about the entertainment. The real concern is that media, especially free-TV is a control industry in China. What is the risk of HKTV will be used as anti-China platform with all the programme with the freedom of speech protection in Hong Kong. Going back to RTHK, even it is government owned, HK government can't control or even influence its anti-Tung talk show every morning and the TV programs. What if HKTV is related to Apple Daily and others? This is the sensitivity that we may not be able to openly talk about. It is so sad that Apple Daily was set up in 1992 which set a very bad standard of what HK news can be. Besides, Ricky also needs to do more PR work as his image and trust with the government is not high. The stake is too high just to give the license to Ricky as nobody can predict his next move.
XYZ
Yes, it is so sad that Apple Daily set up in 1992 and instantly became the No. 2 newspaper in Hong Kong for the last 20 years running. Why can't we all just get along and agree with the CCP?
tennisboy
Another example of government staff making decisions with the sole purpose of protecting their jobs. If PCCW and I- Cable produce garbage programs for the public, both will fail anyway. It's not the quantity, but the quality. The decision should be based on creative, innovative, and entertainment value. How much consideration was put into actually testing the viewership on the 3 company's potential programs? My bet is none.
siulun2050
Isn't ironic that they caused one of the things they are trying to prevent? Layoffs.

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