HKTV's Ricky Wong Wai-kay takes licence decision to court at last
HKTV chief mounts judicial challenge against government rejection of free-to-air application
Ricky Wong Wai-kay has finally lodged a judicial challenge of the government's decision to deny him a free-television licence, almost three months after his Hong Kong Television Network lost the bid.
It is asking the High Court to order the Chief Executive in Council (CEIC) to reconsider its October decision.
On October 15, the Commerce and Economic Development Bureau said it rejected HKTV under the government's "gradual and orderly" approach in introducing operators into the market, though it approved two other applications in principle.
The announcement came despite the then Broadcasting Authority having recommended granting licences to all three applicants to promote competition.
The government had cited the confidentiality rule of the Executive Council in declining to explain its decision in full. It stoked public sentiment and spawned protests and petitions.
Seeking permission yesterday to lodge a judicial review, HKTV says in its filings that the case involved not only the private commercial right of a qualified company to obtain a free-to-air television licence, but also "the entitlement of the Hong Kong public as a whole to enjoy free-television programming" from an additional operator.
The decision is flawed as it amounts to a sudden change in policy, it says. The government has also failed to provide adequate reasoning, it says.
Citing government records, it says that as early as 1998, the city has had a policy to open up the market for fair competition by not imposing any limit on the number of licences to be granted.
There was no mention of the "gradual and orderly approach" until several months before the decision was arrived at. It says the CEIC failed to seek the views of the communications watchdog on whether to apply the "gradual and orderly approach".
"The CEIC has taken into account the likely effect of HKTV's entrance into the market on the continued survival of at least one of the existing players which is an irrelevant consideration," it says.
It says it was not provided with proper reasons as to why the CEIC considered the other two applicants outperformed it.
The body also failed to seek views from the authority on the ranking of the applicants if not all of them would succeed.
It says fairness required the CEIC to give adequate reasons for rejecting its application. It says the matter does not involve Exco confidentiality as it does not require disclosure of what was specifically discussed at Exco meetings or specific materials.
"There is no rule known to Hong Kong law which exempts the CEIC from the requirement of fairness or the duty to give reasons," it says.