Exco owes public an explanation over TV licences, says member Bernard Chan

Bernard Chan argues council must explain what it does as it does it, in wake of HKTV episode

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 13 November, 2013, 4:56am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 13 November, 2013, 12:01pm

Executive Council members should explain government policies to the public throughout the decision-making process, instead of doing so at the last minute, according to Exco member Bernard Chan.

The public had expectations that the council would be accountable them, Chan said, referring to the public outcry over the government's decision to issue only two new free-to-air television licences.

"There had been no systematic explanation of why we changed our policy despite the Communication Authority's advice to issue three licences," Chan told RTHK. "We have to explain to the public not only after a policy conclusion … but throughout the lengthy decision-making process."

His remarks yesterday followed Exco convenor Lam Woon-kwong's call for a review of the vetting process that led to the controversial decision to deny a licence to Hong Kong Television Network. Lam's call was dismissed by Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying and other members of his cabinet.

Chan agreed with Lam, who said the controversy stemmed from a huge discrepancy between Exco's decision and public expectations. There was a need to review how public opinion could be better gauged, Chan said.

Leung said yesterday he had discussed with Lam the convenor's call for a review. "I would not read too much into Lam's remarks," the chief executive said.

As the licence row continues to develop, Leung - who met ethnic minority protesters outside government headquarters yesterday - has suffered a blow to his popularity with his disapproval rating now standing at 63 per cent.

According to a University of Hong Kong survey of more than 1,000 respondents conducted last week, just 22 per cent of those polled said they had confidence in the chief executive.

Leung's net support - the difference between those with confidence in him and those who don't - hit an all-time low of minus 41 percentage points. The net support rate has a margin of error of plus or minus 5 per cent.

Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development Greg So Kam-leung, who has been criticised for his handling of the TV licence saga, saw his net support rate drop drastically by 24 percentage points to minus 12.

Meanwhile, while attending a presentation ceremony for the Youth Service Award, Leung was asked by an award winner to "listen to and follow public opinion" on the free-to-air TV licence issue. The chief executive responded only with a grin.