• Mon
  • Dec 22, 2014
  • Updated: 3:42am
NewsHong Kong

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.


Related topics

For unlimited access to:

SCMP.com SCMP Tablet Edition SCMP Mobile Edition 10-year news archive



This article is now closed to comments

Even with 2 more, not 3, TV licenses, ATV is pretty much finished anyways.
The government could have just as easily chosen to give a license to HKTV as it did to PCCW and Cable (Wharf), but it's definitely predestined to give preference to Li Ka Shing and Big Business - this is business as usual for the government. NO surprises there.
Lam's argument that the market wouldn't financially support more than 3 players is a gross interference into the commercial market. It is on the shareholders and management to decide whether a company's investment is viable or not. With Lam's argument the government has interfered greatly into the internal affairs of a company.
And his argument about the employees being at risk is the lamest excuse ever heard. If the government does really care about people's well-being it would have introduced measurements for affordable and livable housing long time ago.
I don't think ExCo is afraid just any one of the TV stations will fail.

I think they are specifically afraid that a TV station of one of their tycoon buddies will fail, especially when faced with the competition of HKTV's superior quality of content.

What ExCo is basically saying is: we are protecting the narrow vested interests of the Hong Kong business elite by maintaining an artificial oligopoly that will allow them to shun competition and thereby extract huge excess profits at the cost of the general public.

Sounds familiar? Oh yes, because that is precisely how everything else in Hong Kong works too: supermarkets, property development, shopping malls, taxi's, mobile telecom, and so on.
Yes, it being about the employees is total BS. What about the 320 that were laid off at HKTV?
Clear now. For Exco, Hong Kong media is a state controlled industry, not a free market.
Should be nice to hear why they choice to keep ATV alive, a company controlled by non Hong Kong interest.
I always thought the HK Government is eagerly trying to make us believe the Hong Kong is the the "most free economy" in the world. Why not let the market then regulate itself?
This is the most pathetic explanation I have ever heard.
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.
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.
Since when was it the government's business to decide how many TV stations fail in a free, non-state controlled economy?



SCMP.com Account