Depressing picture of Hong Kong media freedom continues

HKU team suggest Kevin Lau attack and other controversies are to blame for new low

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 23 April, 2014, 3:44am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 23 April, 2014, 4:02am

Satisfaction with media freedom has dipped further to a new low since 1997 amid multiple upheavals in the industry, a University of Hong Kong survey shows.

Public perception of the press deteriorated after an assault on former Ming Pao chief editor Kevin Lau Chun-to, the dismissal of outspoken Commercial Radio host Li Wei-ling and the emergence of more hurdles in Hong Kong Television Network's efforts to launch a mobile television service.

The net satisfaction rate recorded this month was 10 percentage points lower than the previous poll, carried out at the end of October - days after the government denied HKTV a free-to-air television licence.

"It is a sharp reduction," research executive Frank Lee Wai-kin, of the HKU public opinion programme, said yesterday.

The research team interviewed 1,015 people on the phone as part of its twice-yearly survey on the public's appraisal of local news media.

It found net satisfaction with press freedom was 15 percentage points - calculated by subtracting the dissatisfaction rate from the satisfaction rate. In particular, net satisfaction with television and radio fell to 41 and 36 percentage points, respectively - both record lows since 1993.

The last time people were extremely unhappy about the media was in 2004, when Commercial Radio hosts Wong Yuk-man and Albert Cheng King-hon were sacked and resigned respectively.

Lee said those interviewed for the latest poll were not asked for the reasons behind their discontent, hence researchers could only refer to major incidents that happened between the October and April surveys.

In January, Lau sprang a surprise on colleagues that he would be moved from his post as Ming Pao chief editor. The following month, government critic Li was fired - followed just two weeks later by a brutal chopper attack on Lau that police said bore all the hallmarks of a triad hit.

Over at HKTV, its plan to launch mobile television came to a halt in March after the Office of the Communications Authority said the station would need a free-to-air licence if households could receive its broadcasting signals at home. In the same month, attackers targeted two senior executives at the Hong Kong Morning News Media Group, a newspaper set to be launched.

The Journalists Association will release a "press freedom index survey" today.