The government will issue a six-page statement explaining its controversial decision to turn down Hong Kong Television Network’s free-to-air licence bid later on Tuesday, Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying announced.
This came as Leung said at the beginning of a vote by the Legislative Council on a proposal for an investigation into the decision that the reasoning of the government had “surprisingly” not been conveyed to the public.
“The experience in the past three weeks is that we have been telling the public... the four criteria, but surprisingly, the information has not been conveyed to the public,” said Leung, referring to communication with the media and Exco members.
Speaking ahead of the Exco meeting on Tuesday morning, Leung elaborated on the four criteria in the consultancy reports leading to the licence vetting outcomes announced on October 15, which subsequently saw a mass rally of an estimated 80,000 taking to the government headquarters.
He explained that the government's consultants had assessed i-Cable, PCCW’s subsidiaries and HKTV on four main criteria: finances, technological and production capability, programme strategy and investment.
“Firstly we consider the applicants’ financial capabilities, including the asset values and cash flow of the related companies, debt and financial backup,” said Leung.
“The second factor is programme investment, including operation costs,” he added.
“Technical issues are also concerned, such as network transmission and coverage, high-definition and interactive elements.
“The fourth factor is level of programme strategies and diversification, whether different genres of programmes are included.”
While he emphasised that revealing these details complied with Exco’ confidentiality rule and legal advice sought via the judiciary and Queen’s Counsel in London, he refused to specify how HKTV had failed to meet the criteria.
On Tuesday, Michael Tien Puk-sun, a directly elected lawmaker from the New People’s Party, quoted officials as telling him in a closed-door meeting that HKTV’s application had been denied because government consultants had “rated HKTV the lowest” on “financial sustainability”. HKTV later wrote to the government, urging it to publicise the decision behind the rejection.
However on a radio programme on RTHK, Tien clarified his earlier comments, saying that officials had actually been concerned about HKTV’s overall “operational sustainability” and not necessarily its finances.
“[The officials’] most important consideration was … the ability to operate sustainably, which means money, as well as the depth of their production team, and whether the drama it produced could attract audience sustainably,” Tien explained.
“In at least one of the four [principles], HKTV was rated the lowest, and [the officials] gave it a heavy weighting, but they did not specify which [principle] it was.”