The future of the newly established Digital Broadcasting Corporation is uncertain after its co-founder, 'Taipan' Albert Cheng King-hon, said yesterday the shareholders had 'lost mutual trust'.
In a statement by the radio broadcaster after a board meeting, DBC said some shareholders were split on issues related to 'the injection of capital and the operational direction'. They plan to hold a special board meeting to resolve the row.
Cheng gave no details, saying only that the differences were not related to money but about 'the ways of running a business'.
He refused to say whether the differences were based on the editorial direction of the station's current affairs programmes, which have criticised the government. ''Ways of running a business' can refer to a lot of things,' he said.
Cheng, a former lawmaker and a veteran radio host, made a name for himself hosting Commercial Radio's Teacup in a Storm from 1995 to 2004, often criticising the government.
In 2008 he was granted a 12-year licence to run a 24-hour Cantonese-language radio station, with an investment in the first six years estimated at HK$620 million.
The station has rolled out seven digital broadcasting channels since August last year.
DBC shareholders include Executive Council member Professor Arthur Li Kwok-cheung, former Exco convenor Ronald Arculli, Bank of East Asia chairman David Li Kwok-po and businessman Wong Cho-bau, who came to public attention when it was revealed he was leasing a luxury Shenzhen penthouse to former chief executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen.
Cheng and Wong are the largest shareholders, jointly owning about 43 per cent of the shares.
Cheng declined to say whether he was under political pressure from any shareholder. He was optimistic the differences could be sorted out and said: 'I hope we can find a few more days [to resolve this].'
Wong refused to comment, saying only that he would return from vacation in early August.
The broadcaster's statement said: 'A special board meeting will be convened as soon as possible.
'We are consulting legal advice in order to protect the interests of shareholders, staff members, business partners and the public. DBC [will] maintain normal operation until further notice.'
Lam Yuk-wah, a long-term partner who co-hosts programmes with Cheng, said Cheng had hinted that he was under pressure about how programmes were being produced.
But Lam said it was difficult to tell whether criticisms of the government were part of the problem.
'I still think I can speak freely on air,' he said. He did not think the broadcaster was facing financial difficulties.
In a statement, the Commerce and Economic Development Bureau said talks had been held with DBC's management.
It said: 'We understand that there is some disagreement between the shareholders of DBC and it would not be appropriate for the government to intervene or comment.'