New ATV chief defends station's reliance on re-runs

Key figure tight-lipped on possible HKTV tie-up, as Cable TV owner slams government and regulator for unfair handling of spectrum

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 08 April, 2014, 4:05am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 08 April, 2014, 5:36pm

The new executive director of ATV has defended the station's use of re-runs to fill its schedule, saying the amount of airtime devoted to repeats was not high compared with other channels in the region.

But Ip Ka-po was tight-lipped over a possible tie-up with Ricky Wong Wai-kay's HKTV.

Separately, the owner of Cable TV said the distribution of spectrum by the government and the Communications Authority meant the city's free-TV market was not a level playing field.

Ip said ATV was working towards offering a wider variety of programmes to viewers, adding more current affairs and talk shows. Daily or weekly re-runs of topical news shows were "to facilitate audience members with different daily routines", he said.

Viewers might think the same programme was being repeated because such shows "all look similar - a few people talking on TV", he said.

ATV's current affairs show Asia Policy Unit is shown three times a day, while one talk show is shown twice a day.

Ip's predecessor as executive director, Louie King-bun, was sacked in February - barely six months into the job - after reportedly filing a complaint with the Communications Authority accusing the station's major investor Wong Ching of meddling in ATV's affairs.

Citing an internal study which compared the channel's re-run rate with that of eight other channels in Hong Kong, Japan, Singapore and the mainland, Ip said ATV's rate - 30 per cent of its airtime - was not particularly high, relatively speaking.

He said ATV was confident its free-to-air licence would be renewed and revealed that some HK$2.7 billion would be invested over the next six years, mainly on a computer system upgrade and technical support for HD broadcasting.

A documentary on the "colour revolutions" in Europe and central Asia - a phenomenon Beijing loyalists see as a potential threat to Hong Kong - will be broadcast in May. Ip denied the broadcast was timed to coincide with the Occupy Central movement, which may take place in the summer, and said the show would offer a fair portrayal of those recent popular revolutions.

Ip gave no details on talks that may have been held between Wong Ching and Ricky Wong Wai-kay over dinner in December. Some had speculated that ATV might be sold to HKTV, or that some of its channels would be rented to Ricky Wong's company. Ip said there had been no contact between either camp for "two or three months".

Meanwhile, in a submission to the Communications Authority, i-Cable Communications questioned the handling of transmission capacity by the authority and the government. As the owner of pay-TV network Cable TV, whose subsidiary Fantastic TV was approved for a free-TV licence, it urged the authority to grant Fantastic TV and PCCW's Hong Kong Television Entertainment - another new free-TV player - access to the spectrum.

This would allow the two new free-TV players to broadcast their primary channels to terrestrial TV viewers. Currently, only TVB and ATV have access to the spectrum.