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  • Jul 10, 2014
  • Updated: 10:00am
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Legco vote on probe into TV licence decision hangs in balance

Six-page government explanation of decision not to grant free-to-air licence to HKTV fails to sway lawmakers undecided on special motion

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 05 November, 2013, 7:56pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 06 November, 2013, 2:34pm

A key vote that could trigger a Legislative Council investigation into the television licence row hung in the balance last night after the government reiterated its fears over the potential collapse of the free-to-air market if it handed out too many licences.

In a six-page explanation of its controversial decision not to grant newcomer Ricky Wong Wai-kay's Hong Kong Television Network a licence, the government reiterated it took a "gradual and orderly approach" to granting licences.

I didn’t sign [documents] or verbally promise to keep secrets
RICKY WONG WAI-KAY

It also said concerns over the "dilution of advertising revenue" and its effect on the whole free-to-air market gave it a "public interest" reason to limit the number of licences granted.

PCCW's Hong Kong Television Entertainment Company and iCable's Fantastic Television, both subsidiaries of corporate giants, won ahead of Wong's independent HKTV. The South China Morning Post yesterday revealed that a lack of financial support from a parent company was a major reason for not granting HKTV a licence.

Wong accused the government of lying as his supporters planned a rally outside government headquarters today.

Legco votes today on whether to invoke the council's special powers to investigate last month's decision, which sparked widespread protest.

By last night, the government's bid to head off opposition to its decision looked to have left today's vote in the balance as some undecided lawmakers expressed disappointment at the six-page statement, saying public concerns remained unanswered.

Watch: CY Leung at Legco on the free-to-air ruling

To defeat the motion, the government needs the votes of four more functional constituency lawmakers. Charles Mok, who tabled the special-powers motion, said last-minute lobbying of undecided lawmakers would continue down to the wire.

Industrial sector lawmaker Lam Tai-fai said he faced an "immensely difficult" decision over which way to vote.

"The public's queries remain unanswered. I had expectations about the response but it brought disappointment. I will consider all factors thoroughly tonight," said Lam.

Cultural sector lawmaker Ma Fung-kwok, who had said he was inclined to oppose the motion, said of the government's explanation: "I was slightly disappointed … it is a difficult choice."

The Business and Professional Alliance for Hong Kong, which holds six votes, said members would discuss their stance today.

Speaking at a public event at Shue Yan University, Wong said he had evidence the government had lied, which he would release tomorrow.

"The word 'confidential' was stamped on the consultancy reports given by the government. But I didn't sign or verbally promise to keep secrets," said Wong. "It's tough for a righteous man to battle with a villain."

He called the government hypocritical for rejecting HKTV's plea to publish the consultancy reports in full and instead releasing the partial truth to the public.

Wong also attacked the government's argument that a parent company's financial capabilities were the overriding factor. It was unjust, he said, that Fantastic TV and HKTVE were chosen because they were subsidiaries of developer Wharf and telecoms giant PCCW respectively.

"I don't have a 'father' [parent company]," said Wong. "Does it mean you don't have to build your own business if you don't have rich parents?"

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This article is now closed to comments

patpakfai
We will see a new explanation with new assessing criteria on granting an extended licence to ATV two years later lol
chuchu59
I am curious as to whether an opinion poll was conducted to gauge what people think of the government's explanation expressed yesterday. This could, to some extent, influence the way in which the undecided councillors vote.
shayliu
I am not supprised that CY Leung is trying to lie his way out considering his track record of lying. Such as accusing people having an illegal basement while having one himself etc..
dng18dng18
I haven't watched TVB in a long time. The only thing that interests me is the nightly news and the 7:30pm documentaries which are quite good (usually how the poor live, etc). Everything else doesn't interest me.
HKTV on the other hand looks refreshing and interesting. By the way, the advertising excuse is just so lame.
honger
How did you watch HKTV?
I
dynamco
www.scmp.com/news/hong-kong/article/1337521/executive-councillor-under-fire-conflict-interest-tv-licensing
and what happened about this ?
lbsaw
Its laughable that the Hongkong government is concern about the business survival of TV stations and to grant the license based on such criteria. This is a bad precedent for Hongkong as an international city where businesses are allowed to be conducted at the owners' own risk. Who is the government to stiffle competition and favour the financially stronger parties? Legco should vote in favour to investigate the truth of the matter. Any legislative member who hesitate to vote in favour is doing injustice to Hongkong nationals and residents. Its time to make the government and Exco accountable for its actions and stop their abuse under the cloud of confidentiality to act in concert with the exclusive super rich entities.
shayliu
After 3 and half years time government suddenly find out they missed out something ???
Lets get some fact straight:
Financial strength: 2 billion net cash is sufficient to cover 4/5 years annual operational cost of HKTV assuming there is 0 profit
Survival: currently HKTV is the most popular among the 3 candidates. Since advertising revenue is linked to the popularity of a TV channel. Other candidates have not proven anything yet
Track record: Ricky Wong has setup a telecom company with limited capital and sold it for HKD 5 billion and grab more than 30%+ market share of the broadband industry. Icable is not even making profit. PCCW has more debt than assets, ATV is alive because of some unknown sponsor..
John Adams
I agree. I'm no accountant but I have run a successful business in HK for almost 30 years, and based on the financial data reported I would say that HKTV has one of the strongest cases for a licence, not the weakest
.
The same goes for most of the other selection criteria published today and the 3 sets of responses.
.
What am I missing unless it's that I don't have a vested or political interest biasing my decision ?
.
PS : Last time I watched ATV was about 15 years ago, and I only turn on TVB for the 7.30 news (hoping that it's Dianna To and not Sonia Artero)
shayliu
That is correct, anyone who can read a balance sheet or have some knowhow about running a business can see that. Icable have not been making any profit in the last 5 years (didn;t look further than that). And PCCW debt has increased significantly in the last 7/8 years. The only exception was when they brough HKT PCCW to the market. Basically they have been funding with huge part of their dividend with debt. And also they have been negative equity for a few years. I wonder how competetive they will be if interest rate will be start rising again. HKTV in terms of financials are definately the strongest amongst those 3 applicants.
And about splitting the Pie TVB's operating profit has increased from 1.3 billion to 2.2 billion alone. They need to come up with a very good story why the TV market will not be sustainable with 5 players?
And also players will only enter the market when they believe it is going to be profitable. Let free market decide..

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