Robert Chua

Why do some people believe Ricky Wong Wai-kay's failure to get a free-to-air television licence and the derailment of his mobile TV ambitions are politically motivated and that the government is trying to thwart Hong Kong Television Network?

I attended the Communication Authority's first public hearing about the renewal of the free-to-air TV licences at City Hall. It turned out to be a shouting match with many participants just making unconstructive comments. Some even came with placards as if they were protesting in the street. Speakers were chosen at random and many who had wanted to speak (including me) ended up disappointed.

It should come as no surprise that Jenny Ng Pui-ying, the consultant who said the government had misquoted her company's assessment of the TV market during the row over free-to-air licences last year, has finally done the honourable thing and quit her job.

I do not understand how lawmakers' minds work. Since it has been agreed that a new RTHK broadcasting centre will be built, the only thing legislators needed to do was make sure what is needed justified the HK$6.1 billion budget. Turning down the funding request just because it was - to quote legislator Elizabeth Quat of the Democratic Alliance for Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong - "an astronomical sum of money" is not a valid reason.


Let's not misuse our right to freedom of expression to protest against or attack others purely for self-interest; we need to think of the people's interest first. Clearly, the dispute between TVB and Next Media is not about "freedom of the press" or "freedom of expression". It is merely a company's decision against an unfriendly rival that is threatening its business.

The Communications Authority was wrong to recommend awarding three new free-to-air television licences; the government was right to reject such advice. While it is good to have more choice, what good is it when that means choosing between "bad" and "worse" programmes?

I speak from almost 50 years of experience in the TV industry, having worked my way up from the lowest ranks in TV production in Australia, worked in Singapore, helped start TVB, and then owned and operated a private television channel in the 1990s.

Related Topic