HKTV gets go-ahead for legal challenge

Station has two weeks to make case for judicial review of TV licence decision

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 11 January, 2014, 4:12am
UPDATED : Saturday, 11 January, 2014, 4:50am

Hong Kong Television Network says it has received court permission to set out a detailed case within two weeks against the government's rejection of its free-to-air TV licensing bid.

HKTV, headed by businessman Ricky Wong Wai-kay, received High Court approval on Thursday to apply for a judicial review, the company said in an announcement to the stock exchange yesterday.

The next step was to issue an originating summons - used in cases where there is little or no dispute over facts - for a judicial review of the decision by the Chief Executive in Council within 14 days, it said.

If the court approves this application, a hearing date will be scheduled. Wong lodged the judicial challenge on Monday, almost three months after HKTV's application was rejected.

On October 15, the Commerce and Economic Development Bureau said HKTV lost out under the government's "gradual and orderly" approach in introducing operators into the market, though it approved two other applications in principle. They were PCCW affiliate HK Entertainment Television and i-Cable's Fantastic Television.

The decision was made despite the then-Broadcasting Authority having recommended granting licences to all three applicants to promote competition.

Protests and petitions followed the bureau's announcement, demanding a detailed explanation. The government cited the confidentiality rule of the Executive Council in declining to explain its decision.

HKTV said in its High Court filing on Monday that the case involved not only the private commercial right of a qualified company to obtain a free-to-air TV licence, but also "the entitlement of the Hong Kong public as a whole to enjoy free-television programming" from another operator.

Citing government records, it says that as early as 1998, a policy has been in place to open up the market for fair competition by not limiting the number of licences to be granted.