My Take

Turn off ATV and turn on HKTV

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 28 March, 2015, 6:55am
UPDATED : Saturday, 28 March, 2015, 6:55am

Asia Television does not deserve to live. It's been airing re-runs; its news service staff are badly demoralised and many have left; it has had troubles paying employees and licence fees; and an unnamed white knight has baulked at the absurd HK$700 million price tag major shareholder Wong Ching is demanding.

Any regulators in their right mind would have let it die a richly deserved death long ago. Yet, the Executive Council is still struggling to come up with the semblance of an excuse to renew its licence. Frankly, it's just too bizarre.

If it's because of ATV's pro-Beijing stance, I suggest officials change existing broadcasting ownership laws so China's CCTV can take over. The state-owned station may be a mouthpiece for Beijing, but at least it has the resources to produce some decent news documentaries and historical soap operas.

In two rounds of licensing decisions, local regulators made complete fools of themselves. First, they allowed a financially and intellectually bankrupt TV station to continue. Then they granted new licences to two subsidiaries of i-Cable Communications and PCCW without ascertaining when they would start to provide free-to-air services. So far, both have little or nothing to show for it.

Meanwhile, the one station, Hong Kong Television Network, that actually committed investment, hired hundreds of people - subsequently forced into redundancies - and produced actual new programmes was rejected. HKTV had even promised not to provide any news service that might be politically sensitive.

The sorry excuse officials gave for rejecting HKTV was that it could not demonstrate financial stability and that it did not have the experience of i-Cable and PCCW. Well, financially, see where ATV is now. And in terms of programmes, when will the newly licensed stations start regular broadcasts? As soon as possible, they say.

Well, HKTV has been broadcasting on the internet and smartphones. It has just announced a HK$240 million loss, mostly because it could not charge mainstream advertising rates as a normal TV station. No doubt some officials would cite that as evidence of a lack of financial stability. But they let ATV live!

Kill ATV now and give the licence to HKTV.