No outright rejection this time: HKTV’s second application for licence returned for consideration

But Exco decision seen as delaying tactic to avoid embarrassing CY Leung, and hurting his chances if he decides to run for chief executive position again

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 28 September, 2016, 3:06pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 28 September, 2016, 10:12pm

The Executive Council has returned Hong Kong Television Network’s application for a free-to-air licence to the Communications Authority for consideration, instead of handing out another outright rejection.

But the move is seen as a “delaying tactic” to avoid embarrassing Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying, which may affect his potential second-term bid.

HKTV chairman Ricky Wong Wai-kay confirmed that the Exco had returned his network’s second application to the authority, which then requested more information on the network’s development proposals.

“I found it strange. (Those are) just delaying tactics. I think that (Leung) does not want the issue of the television licence to affect his bid for a second term,” he said in a Commercial Radio programme.

Legco run has nothing to do with getting free-to-air TV licence, says HKTV’s Ricky Wong

“I can’t see what additional information I need to submit, nor what further information I can actually submit. It was already our second application. Over the past few years, we have submitted exchanges of documents dozens, if not, 100 times. Everything has been handed in.”

Wong also found it strange that his network was officially informed of the Exco’s decision only after the Sing Tao Daily approached HKTV and sought its response on the decision.

“The government is saying on the one hand that the document (informing HKTV of the decision) is confidential. On the other hand, it leaked this (to the media),” Wong said.

In 2013, the Exco rejected HKTV’s licence application, contending the local TV market could not support more than two newcomers. Only i-Cable’s Fantastic TV and PCCW’s HK Television Entertainment Company, now known as ViuTV, were granted licences. The rejection led to a public uproar, with critics complaining it was a political decision because Wong is often critical of Leung.

Wong launched a high-profile “ABC” – Anyone but CY Leung – campaign when he was running for the recent Legislative Council election, which he lost. He has now set his sights on the coming battle involving the Election Committee that will choose the next chief executive.

HKTV’s programmes, which are broadcast on the internet, have won praise from Hongkongers for being out-of-the-box and more entertaining than those on other local broadcasters.

HKTV applied for a licence for the second time in 2014.

The Commerce and Economic Development Bureau said it was the Communications Authority which suggested giving HKTV more time to submit additional information regarding requirements under the Broad­casting Ordinance. The Exco then accepted the recommendation.

Exco member Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee said politics played no part in the decision.

“The Communications Authority told us that not enough information had been provided to make a decision... the Exco agreed that there was not enough information,” Ip said. She added that critics have overestimated the impact that the HKTV controversy has on the upcoming chief executive election in March.