Television Broadcasts (TVB)

Hong Kong broadcaster TVB fined HK$300,000 for promoting mobile app in its TV shows

Watchdog slaps city’s largest provider of free television with penalty after firm indirectly advertises app developed by one of its subsidiaries

PUBLISHED : Friday, 01 June, 2018, 9:46pm
UPDATED : Friday, 01 June, 2018, 11:02pm

Hong Kong’s largest provider of free television was on Friday fined HK$300,000 (US$38,200) by the city’s broadcasting watchdog for using four programmes to promote a mobile app developed by its subsidiary.

The penalty was immediately condemned by Television Broadcasts Limited (TVB), which called the decision by the Communications Authority “biased and unfair”.

The authority said TVB had breached the television programme code by indirectly advertising Big Big Channel in programmes screened between last June and October. The mobile video app is the work of TVB’s indirectly owned subsidiary BBCL.

Some 37 complaints had been received about the advertising, the authority said.

Indirect advertising – the mingling or embedding of adverts into programme content, inadvertently or otherwise, with or without a fee – is currently not allowed. But the authority has in recent months been gathering public opinion on whether it should be permitted in specific types of programmes.

A TVB spokesman on Friday claimed the app was an online extension of its television services and was therefore serving the public interest by providing TVB-related entertainment and information.

“The exposure of [the app] in our free programmes did not constitute advertising material. The Communications Authority’s perception of [the app] as being an advertised product was grossly incorrect,” the spokesman said in a statement.

TVB files writ against ‘advertising’ warning

However, the authority said the app was not part of TVB’s free television services. Only some of its contents were found to be related to free TVB programmes.

The broadcaster also received two warnings from the authority for promoting the app on three other shows.

TVB has been one of the most vocal critics of the current rules barring indirect advertising, as the television industry struggles to remain profitable amid stiff competition from new media.

The company is in the middle of legal challenges against two violations it committed in 2015 and 2016 that incurred fines of HK$350,000.