DBC hosts protest 'politically motivated' closure of radio station

PUBLISHED : Friday, 19 October, 2012, 9:01pm
UPDATED : Friday, 08 May, 2015, 9:30am

Activists and radio hosts of the cash-strapped Digital Broadcasting Corporation on Friday began a three-day sit-in in front of the government headquarters in Admiralty.

The broadcaster was forced off the air following a row among shareholders, with iconic host Albert Cheng Kin-hon branding the dispute as “politically motivated."

Those speaking on the stage described the station's imminent closure as a result of political suppression.

Lam Yuk-wah, a co-host with Albert Cheng said: “This is not an internal row". He said the station did not have financial difficulties before a promise of additional funds was retracted.

Host Lai Chak-fan said the incident was a reflection of the situation of press freedom in Hong Kong.

He said dissidenting views were being oppressed by commercial means, adding that the majority of mainstream press groups in Hong Kong were controlled by tycoons with close links with Beijing.

During a speech to a few hundred supporters, Lai claimed there was concrete proof of political interference during the company row that financially crippled the new digital broadcasting station.

Lam said 4,000 people joined the sit-in on Friday.

The sit-in is scheduled to last until Sunday, the seventh day of a “voluntarily broadcasting campaign” aimed at keeping the radio station on the airwaves in order to comply with rules of their license.

The broadcaster was warned on Monday that it might have breached its licensing conditions for failing to broadcast its seven channels 24 hours a day last week.

Earlier this week, the High Court granted an application by Digital Broadcasting Corporation’s major shareholder, Bill Wong Cho-bau, to appoint two accountants to oversee the closure of the radio station.

Wong had previously refused to top-up investment for the radio channels – which only went in to full operation in May. Then, the Beijing-loyalist filed a writ in court over the station’s book-keeping.

Cheng accused Wong of helping the central government in silencing dissidenting views often heard expressed on the digital radio station

He said Wong had refused to invest more funds in the station after receiving instructions from an unnamed official at the central government’s liaison office in Hong Kong.

Wong maintains that his motives were based purely on business considerations.

In 2008, Cheng was granted a 12-year licence to run a 24-hour Cantonese-language radio station, with an investment in the first six years estimated at HK$620 million.

Cheng, a former lawmaker and a veteran radio host, made a name for himself hosting Commercial Radio’s Teacup in a Storm from 1995 to 2004, often criticising the government.

The city’s first digital broadcaster ran out of cash for sustainable operations after Wong allegedly went back on an agreement to invest an additional HK$50 million in the business.

The government says the row is a matter for tha management of the company to resolve internally.