Commercial Radio boss plays down threat to 'fire' presenter Li Wei-ling
Stephen Chan reveals text message at heart of row with Li Wei-ling after taking over her show
The head of Commercial Radio has defended himself over a star presenter's claim that he threatened to fire her after taking away her prime-time slot - and revealed the text message at the heart of the row.
The presenter, outspoken government critic Li Wei-ling, used her new evening programme on Monday to claim that station chief executive Stephen Chan Chi-wan had threatened to fire her on Friday after moving her from morning talk show On A Clear Day. Chan took over as presenter of the show himself.
But Chan said the message, in which he told Li he would "have no option but to end our contractual relationship" if she did not accept the new assignment, was an attempt to ensure she confirmed arrangements for a meeting and press conference.
"Briefing her on the new assignment in my office, I felt that she was comfortable accepting it - and had agreed to attend a working meeting and a press conference scheduled for the afternoon," Chan said. After struggling to contact her later on Friday, however, he sent her the text message at 2.39pm, demanding she contact him by 3pm. If she did not, he wrote, he would consider her to have rejected the new assignment.
"Management-wise I needed to know," Chan said. "If she was not accepting the move I would have to explain it to the media."
Li responded 14 minutes later, confirming that she would work as arranged, but would not attend the press conference.
The decision to move Li has been criticised as an attempt to curry favour with the government as it applies to renew its licence, which expires in 2016.
Chan said the decision was based on strategic and administrative concerns, but Li said yesterday that she believed the saga was politically motivated.
"I do not think it would be surprising to conclude Leung Chun-ying's administration dislikes me," Li said, adding that government officials had "warned" her to "be careful of her job".
Li claimed she "lost control" after being told of the move and had not wanted to attend the press conference as she was "emotionally reluctant to face my bosses" and "did not want to cry in front of the public".
Admitting it would be "difficult" to continue as a presenter, a job in which she felt "obliged to uphold freedom of the speech", she said: "I hope the public will stand by my side."