It’s curtains for ATV: liquidators to shut down ailing broadcaster after Hong Kong court decision cleared the way
Accounting firm Deloitte to close station and fire remaining staff after failure to work out viable plan to save the company
Six decades of Hong Kong television history will come to an end today when court-appointed liquidators finally pull the plug on ATV after its mainland investor failed to come up with the cash to save the dying station.
Following months of uncertainty, turmoil, and litigation, accounting firm Deloitte China said last night the HK$8 million cash injection needed to keep the world’s first Chinese-language TV station alive had not been forthcoming and all remaining staff would be laid off.
Deloitte representatives will be at Asia Television’s Tai Po headquarters Friday morning to hand out termination letters and figure out how to shut down transmission.
Derek Lai Kar-yan, Deloitte China’s southern region managing partner, was unable to say last night when exactly ATV would be taken off air.
They would have to retain a few technical staff to figure out the details, he said.
But it could be a week without any signal as RTHK, which has been tasked with filling the vacuum, will not be ready with analogue programming until around March 10.
The Communications Authority said it had yet to receive a notification from Deloitte as to when ATV would stop broadcasting – or if broadcasting would resume. It called for details as soon as possible so it could take back the spectrum occupied by ATV.
Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development Greg So Kam-leung expressed regret over ATV’s early collapse.
Deloitte noted that the High Court, which allowed a petition from ATV’s mainland investor, Si Rongbin, to delay the shutdown earlier this week, would no longer interfere with the liquidator’s bid to prevent further liability by dragging out its demise.
Deloitte is acting on behalf of major creditor Wong Ching, ATV’s former boss who sold his stake to Si, but wants the station liquidated as the deal was not completed and he is still owed HK$1.8 billion.
Lai said Si, with whom he negotiated the sale of ATV’s controlling stake last year, failed to cough up HK$8 million as a guarantee to support the station’s operation for this month before its free-to-air licence expires on April 1.
While most ATV employees were said to have walked out already after the station failed to pay them two months’ wages, Deloitte estimated there were still more than 400 employees left.
Many of them spoke of feeling sad but also relieved that it was all finally over.
ATV actor Frankie Choi Kwok-wai said: “Enough is enough ... but as a veteran it’s heartbreaking to witness this TV station has come to such an ugly end.”
Choi said he was co-ordinating a meeting with Deloitte to resolve contract issues for artists as their employment terms were different from news department and other staff.
Others appeared confused by all the last-minute drama.
“It has been taking so many twists and turns, and I don’t know whom I should really trust,” said Man Ming, a 53-year-old security guard who has been with the company for more than 10 years.
Jane He, who represents Si, questioned Deloitte’s motives in shutting down the station “so abruptly and violently”.
She said they had the money to carry on running the station, but that they did not trust the liquidators with it.