City says overall market sustainability must govern granting of TV licences

Government counsel tells court HKTV was rejected due to changing ad market

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 30 August, 2014, 4:30am
UPDATED : Saturday, 30 August, 2014, 4:57am

In the face of a shrinking and changing media advertising scene, the government must consider market sustainability as a whole when deciding whether to issue new television licences, the Court of First Instance heard yesterday.

Benjamin Yu SC, for the government, said people's habits were changing as they spent less time watching television and more with new media, accessing the internet through phones and other mobile devices.

New media would undoubtedly take an even greater share from other platforms in the future, Yu said.

Thus, when the Chief Executive in Council - the chief executive and Executive Council - last year decided that only two new free-to-air television licences should be issued, these factors had to be considered together.

Yu was giving the government's case against HKTV's application for a judicial review of the decision on October 15 to award licences to channels run by established players PCCW and i-Cable, but not to HKTV.

He said that due to the changes, allowing more television stations into the market might have led owners to produce programmes to attract audiences without caring about the quality.

"To draw a line between good television and bad television, the [chief executive and Exco] had to use their wisdom and experience to decide which licence should be granted," he said.

He submitted that the government had taken a "gradual and orderly approach" in granting only the two licences.

It did not need to seek a further recommendation from the Communication Authority as the authority had already submitted all the reports and facts for consideration. The government's decision was reasonable, Yu said, and the court should not override or interfere with it.

In reply, Russell Coleman SC, for HKTV, said the Chief Executive in Council had adopted an "inconsistent" policy in ruling out the newcomer's licence application.

He said it had always been the government's policy to set no limit on the number of licences and it was unfair and unreasonable to set a number in the last stage of discussion. Although it was the final decision maker, Coleman said the Chief Executive in Council lacked expertise.

When it adopted the new "gradual and orderly approach" it should have taken account of the Communications Authority's recommendations but failed to do so.

Mr Justice Au Hing-cheung reserved his judgment to an unspecified date.