The decision to award two rather than three television licences has resulted in public satisfaction with the government slumping to a 20-year low, say organisers of a University of Hong Kong survey.
In the latest score covering the first half of November measured by the Public Sentiment Index (PSI), support for the government dropped to 58.3 points out of 200 - the first time it has dipped below 60 since the university's public opinion programme started collecting figures in 1992.
"The issue of free television licences … has already been reflected in this and previous PSI," said Jazz Ma, IT manager of the programme.
As top officials stood firm on refusing a review of the Executive Council's decision-making process, the consultant who wrote the television licensing reports for the Broadcasting Authority broke her silence on the issue.
Jenny Ng Pui-ying, managing partner of Value Partners Asia, said officials had quoted their reports out of context to explain why Hong Kong Television Network did not get a licence.
"The way they used our reports … is a great insult for me and my company," she said on a Commercial Radio programme yesterday. She said she was shocked when the government announced that HKTV would not get a licence.
"I regretted very much that officials had made such a decision," Ng said.
She said her team was committed to conducting analysis on how competition would affect the free TV market, not which candidates the government should grant licences to. She stressed their team had never recommended only two applicants should get a licence.
She was also upset that the government had used "outdated reports" submitted in 2009 for its decision. Ng believed that HKTV should be granted a licence to provide more opportunities for creative talents, and that this would not cause any further pressure on the market.
Meanwhile, University of Hong Kong law professor Albert Chen Hung-yee said a judicial review of Exco's decision could not solve the TV licence row effectively because a court ruling could not guarantee HKTV would be issued a licence.
"According to case precedents, the result of the judicial review can only lead to the overthrow of the Executive Council's decision," Chen said on an RTHK programme.
Barrister Martin Lee Chu-ming said it was ludicrous for the government to ask people to lodge a judicial review against the licence decision if it deemed it was correct. "If the government says its decision is correct, why does it ask people to seek a judicial review [against the decision]? If the government thinks it is wrong, it should re-do it."
Additional reporting by Jeffie Lam
Video: CY Leung at Legco on the free-to-air ruling