Consultancy says TV licence decision is unfair and it must speak up

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 19 November, 2013, 5:13am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 19 November, 2013, 6:35am

The consultancy that wrote the report on free-to-air television licences said it did not mind burning its bridges with the government because the decision to reject Hong Kong Television Network's bid was unjust.

"This government didn't do its homework. It changed the rules of the game without consultation. As a Hongkonger, I must speak up," Value Partners Asia managing partner Jenny Ng Pui-ying said.

"I don't mind if I don't get business from the government any more," she said. "When I decided to speak up, I knew I would upset some people and my business might be affected.

"People want our service because we are professional, not because we are 'yes men'."

Ng said the government kept imposing its problematic logic on the consultancy study prepared by her company. And it used the company as a shield against public criticisms.

In multiple attempts to explain the rationale behind its decision, the government cited market sustainability and how introducing more players in one go might cause cut-throat competition, which might lead to the decline of programming quality. Ng said this did not make sense.

"Of [our study's] 400 pages, the government only quoted a few paragraphs [and they were] out of context," she said.

Value Partners submitted a total of four consultancy reports, the last one in February last year - one year and nine months before the decision to grant free-to-air television licences to i-Cable's Fantastic TV and PCCW's Hong Kong Entertainment Network was announced.

"The information was dated. It didn't add anything, including Ricky Wong selling his telecom business [in the summer of 2012 to finance the television operation] and the new drama productions," Ng said.

The study was to look at the competitive landscape of the free-to-air television market, the overall development and the possible impact should new players be introduced, according to the Communications Authority.

"There was never a question of which station was better, because the free television market was to open without a licence cap," Ng said. She said the study would have been done differently if the government was going to pick two out of three applicants.

She said sustainability was never a question either. PCCW's Now TV and i-Cable's Cable TV had each offered one free channel for a long time. "So giving a new licence to HKTV meant that, essentially, only one new player was added," Ng said.

Not giving HKTV a licence, was "unfair to the people of Hong Kong and unfair to advertisers".