TVB fined by watchdog and warned over 'bad taste' after host's remark

Station accepts 'comfort woman' remark was wrong; Asia Television fined over accounts

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 04 December, 2013, 4:29am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 04 December, 2013, 4:29am

The two free-to-air television stations have been punished and reprimanded by the telecoms watchdog, shortly after lodging their licence renewal applications, for rule breaches that included a popular host's "bad taste" in calling his colleague a "comfort woman".

Market leader TVB was fined HK$100,000 for indirect advertising found in its programmes, the Communications Authority (Ofca) revealed yesterday.

The authority also asked TVB to "observe more closely" what was said on air after host Eric Tsang Chi-wai directed the "comfort woman" comment at co-host Astrid Chan Chi-ching during coverage of the start of the FIFA Confederations Cup soccer tournament on the Jade and HD Jade Channels of TVB in June.

Tsang made the remark - a reference to women forced to provide sexual services to Japanese troops during the second world war - after Chan indicated support for Japan in the opening game. TVB was involved in five of the seven complaint cases the authority handled in its meeting last month.

Asia Television was "advised" to ensure its prime-time newscast was at least 15 minutes long. Separately, it was fined HK$200,000 for failing to submit audited accounts for four financial years from 2009 to 2012.

Pay-television operator Cable TV received "strong advice" for an advertisement that featured two people caressing.

TVB admitted the "comfort woman" remark was inappropriate, describing it as "a slip of the tongue", the authority noted.

But what aroused more concern for the authority was the use of "indirect advertising", which attracted the fine.

In its popular drama series Triumph In the Skies II, a co-pilot was portrayed preparing to confess his love to a female character. He used hundreds of bottles of vitamin water of different colours to build a heart shape on a beach.

The brand name was "clearly and frequently" shown on the bottles and the cartons, the authority said.

Cameras and watches were also indirectly advertised in episodes of the show, Ofca found.

Suspecting that the contents were intentionally designed and edited to cater for certain sponsors, the authority said it "has taken a serious view of the breaches, and has imposed stiff sanctions commensurate with the nature and severity of each contravention".