Big spenders, including HSBC and PCCW, defy broadcaster's deadline in dispute over bid to raise 2005 rates by 18.8pc Leading Hong Kong advertisers are locked in a showdown with dominant terrestrial broadcaster Television Broadcasts, which is trying to raise next year's advertising rates by as much as 18.8 per cent. HSBC, Hang Seng Bank, PCCW, New World Mobility and other firms yesterday defied a bid deadline set by the broadcaster, according to industry sources. Miramar Hotel and Investment and Sony Computer Entertainment also declined to comply with the schedule. 'We did not make a commitment,' said Anthony Lau Yuk-kin, a marketing communications manager for HSBC and the secretary of the Hong Kong Advertisers Association (HK2A). 'We simply found it too difficult to do so.' In a letter to members, Alison Ho of Hang Seng Bank, chairwoman of HK2A, urged media buyers 'not to commit to TVB's December 10 deadline until we obtain a favourable reply from TVB'. HSBC, which spent an estimated $50.2 million on television advertising in the first 11 months of this year, also refrained from making advance bookings with Asia Television and Hong Kong Cable Television. However, HK2A's stance is particularly aimed at TVB, which is demanding 18.8 per cent more for advertising time next year than it did for this year. The station has also tightened its volume discounts. Advertisers receive a 42 per cent discount if they spend 15 per cent more than they did this year. But the volume discount last year was 44 per cent, and heavy advertisers are expressing impatience with the growth requirement. 'The discount arrangement punishes big advertisers,' Mr Lau said. 'It's unfair that they're not rewarded for spending huge amounts every year.' He said HK2A members including Cathay Pacific Airways, Dairy Farm International Holdings and McDonald's hoped to receive the discount for maintaining the same level of advertising spending. The Association of Accredited Advertising Agents of Hong Kong (HK4A) is also co-operating with the non-compliance action. 'We have advised our members not to commit until we have a clear explanation from TVB,' said Mabel Leung, HK4A's media and research committee chairwoman. 'We want them to increase the transparency of the pre-emption system, which doesn't exist in other markets.' The pre-emption system allows advertisers to buy previously booked space by offering higher rates. Broadcasters played down the impact of the protest last night. 'We are still working on the hundreds of forms coming in today,' said Leung Kin-wah, TVB's controller of marketing and sales. 'Response is 'so far, so good' at the moment.' A Cable TV source said: 'Some spots are fully booked. 'We have received enthusiastic commitments for next year's regular bookings, as well as those for the English Premier League [football] package.' Some analysts said the aggressive rise in television advertising charges would push advertisers to other media, such as newspapers and outdoor hoardings. 'Advertisers will consider allocating more of their marketing budgets to traditional media such as newspapers,' UOB Kay Hian analyst Tommy Ho said.