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Now Lai says farewell to ATV

ONLY a fortnight after P.S. revealed how former ATV chief executive officer Selina Chow Liang Shuk-yee had severed all links with the station, we hear of another resignation from among the ranks.

Assistant chief executive officer David Lai Tak-shing has left to join a Kowloon-based telecommunications company in a move ATV insiders have been expecting for months.

The former policeman and Mark Lee Po-pon joined ATV in May 1991 with orders from chairman Lim Por-yen to stem the financial and management confusion at the station.

Although the pair briskly set about cutting annual losses that at one point reached $330 million and attempted to rationalise the administration of the station, sources said Mr Lai had become increasingly frustrated of late.

ATV insisted last week his departure had been an amicable parting at the end of his contract.

Mr Lai could not be contacted for comment, but a former colleague said the departure was anything but friendly: ''I do not think he could stand the place any longer. He spent all his time trying to build up modern management structures, like getting departmental heads to draw up budgets, only for everything to be ignored.'' Octogenarian Mr Lim apparently spurned written reports about ATV in favour of calling up subordinates to get their comments.

''Instead of asking if they had fulfilled their management goals, everyone he spoke to would use the calls as a chance to stab their rivals in the back and build up their own little empires,'' said the source.

''It is now like a big bickering family and not a business at all.'' Although the losses have been reduced to $170 million a year, an executive with the station said this had been accomplished by cutting budgets: ''In order to get into the black there are going to have to be fundamental changes in the way things are run -but there's no evidence that is being done.'' Meanwhile, ATV is still waiting to discover when it will appear in court to face a $3 million claim for unfair dismissal brought by former CEO Stanislaus Tsao, who was fired last September for signing a 10-year agreement with STAR TV.

The deal appears to be distinctly advantageous to STAR, since it allows it to sell ATV programmes to other parties and binds the terrestrial station to produce 500 hours of drama programming a year when it is as much as it can do to produce 260.