Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa has been urged not to grant an exemption to Tom.com for it to buy a 32.75 per cent stake in ATV, so as to ensure fair competition and a free flow of information. In a letter to Mr Tung, Democratic Party chairman Martin Lee Chu-ming said he was concerned about the deal, which would allow tycoon Li Ka-shing to extend his influence from radio to free-to-air television. The deal requires a special exemption from Mr Tung for non-compliance with rules covering the industry that prohibit cross-ownership of media organisations. Mr Li's Hutchison Whampoa and Cheung Kong (Holdings) wholly own Metro Broadcast. They hold 43.3 per cent of Tom.com. Any exemption should only be given on the grounds of public interest and needs. Mr Lee said: 'Clearly, it [the ATV deal] will be a breach of the cross-ownership provisions.' The party chairman said they fully supported the idea of restricting cross-ownership of media because it would ensure diversification in the market, fair competition and the development of new media. 'Ultimately it is the audience and public who benefit. Unless there is strong public interest involved, the policy [of cross-ownership] must not be compromised,' Mr Lee said. He noted that Mr Li's two companies had already gained a dominance in the media sector through internet services, telecommunications and radio. 'If they [are allowed to] enter an influential electronic media it will seriously affect the way people think about issues and will undermine the public right to choose,' he said. The manipulation of one or two enterprises in the media industry would further reduce genuine competition. 'Tom.com's proposed purchase does not meet the principles of public interest . . . Therefore, no exemption should be given,' he said. Some sectors, including energy, cargo transportation, supermarket and telecommunications, had already seen business practices that might go against the principle of fair competition and constitute monopoly. 'Unfair business practices will grow if the government refuses to formulate a comprehensive law on competition while giving exemption to applications that go against fair competition principle,' Mr Lee said. 'This will not benefit the overall economy and livelihood of the society.'