Television Broadcasts (TVB)

10,000 complaints after Hong Kong station TVB uses simplified Chinese in newscasts

Traditional characters, commonly used in Hong Kong, have been replaced by simplified ones in Putonghua newscasts on broadcaster’s J5 channel

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 23 February, 2016, 3:52pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 24 February, 2016, 9:39am

Nearly 10,000 complaints have been made against TVB’s decision to use simplified characters during its Putonghua newscasts on its J5 channel, the Communications Authority said.

TVB, Hong Kong’s largest television station, made the change on Monday, switching its Putonghua newscasts from the Pearl channel to the HD Jade channel, which it renamed J5.

Subtitles, news graphics and other characters now feature simplified Chinese rather than the traditional form widely used in Hong Kong.

An authority spokesman said it had received almost 10,000 complaints by 5pm on Tuesday. He said that under the terms of its licence, TVB was required to provide Chinese subtitles in its newscasts, weather forecasts and current affairs programmes.

But TVB was allowed to decide how subtitles were presented, a spokesman said.

This is the second such controversy over the use of simplified and traditional characters that have hit the city this month, after the discovery of a public consultation document prompted fears the Education Bureau was planning to replace the use of traditional characters with the simplified ones in teaching.

Many web users on the popular forum said TVB’s decision was “insane”.

“What’s the problem with mainlanders learning traditional characters and Cantonese when they are here in Hong Kong?” one wrote.

Another said: “Way to go TVB for being a tool to help push for mainlandisation.”

A template that is being circulated online says that TVB should not have made use of public airwaves in Hong Kong to broadcast simplified characters in its newscasts.

“Cantonese and traditional characters are a part of Hong Kong’s tradition and culture,” the template reads, adding that the way of life in the city should remain unchanged for 50 years as guaranteed in the Basic Law.

Civic Party’s lawmaker Claudia Mo wrote a letter to TVB Group chief executive Mark Lee Po-on, asking the station to provide both traditional and simplified characters in the Putonghua newscasts and let the viewers choose which form they want.

TVB defended the decision. A spokesman said that Hong Kong is an international city and the new arrangement would “better serve different audience needs”.

In an article in its overseas edition yesterday, the state-run People’s Daily defended the use of simplified characters, drawing as a reference the other controversy that took place earlier this month. It also cited the Education Bureau as clarifying it has never advocated replacing traditional characters with the simplified ones.

“From an education point of view, for Hong Kong students learning simplified characters, not only will they be able to access wider reading materials, they will also get more opportunities in the future,” the article said.

“Simplified characters are commonly used in Taiwan, Singapore and Malaysia today. That happened because they wanted to connect to the market in mainland China. Isn’t it strange that Hong Kong, as a Special Administrative Region of China, is sensitive towards the use of simplified characters?” it said.