HKTV doomed to fail from the start, ex-RTHK chief says

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 16 November, 2013, 4:39am
UPDATED : Saturday, 16 November, 2013, 6:20am

To a media veteran who led RTHK for 13 years, Ricky Wong Wai-kay's failure to get a free-television licence for his station came as no surprise.

The outcome was obvious to former broadcasting director Cheung Man-yee back in 2010, after Wong applied for a licence.

But it was ridiculous that the government cited a fear of "cutthroat competition" in throwing out his bid, she said yesterday.

"I told other people three years ago that Wong must not get a licence," Cheung said in a public talk at Chinese University. "It's nothing to do with insider knowledge. It's an educated guess from my years in the media and understanding of Hong Kong affairs."

Cheung declined to say whether Beijing played a role, but borrowed a quote from Liberal Party chairwoman Selina Chow Liang Shuk-yee: "If I gave you a licence, I could not control you."

She added: "As a businessman, Wong cleverly said the decision was unrelated to Beijing but was only because of [Chief Executive] Leung Chun-ying."

The 30-year RTHK veteran headed the government-funded broadcaster from 1986 to 1998 - the first Hongkonger and the only woman to serve as its director.

She said that although the result was expected, the government's reasoning of insufficient advertising revenue to support five market players did not stand.

"This account is nonsense. Hong Kong is a place for free competition. If some stations are to be weeded out from the five, it may not necessarily be Wong's."

Cheung continued: "Do you ever say there are too many supermarkets? Too many pharmacies selling baby milk formula? Too many watch or gold sellers? [No one] ever says that."

She praised Communications Authority chairman Ambrose Ho Pui-him and an Executive Council consultant who spoke to reporters, for "speaking out about the truth and facts" that ran counter to Leung's justifications. The authority recommended that Exco approve all three applicants - Wong's Hong Kong Television Network, i-Cable's Fantastic Television and Now TV's HK Television Entertainment. Ho reiterated the stance in a recent paper to the legislature.

Leung's administration paid little regard to media freedom, she said. "In the Donald Tsang Yam-kuen era, there was more talk of respect for press freedom. You hear it much less now."

That signalled less hope for any official advocacy to make RTHK independent from the government, Cheung said.