17th October 2013
Reasons for Denying License Application are Beyond HKers’ Imagination
Under public pressure, CY Leung’s government finally made a decision on the issuance of free-to-air television license, a matter that has stirred prolonged concerns and debates. Mysteriously, CY Leung’s government only issued licenses to iCable’s Fantastic TV and PCCW’s Hong Kong Television Entertainment, but denied application from Ricky Wong Wai-kay’s HKTV.
Based on the quality and sincerity of each of these applicants, there is no reason for denying HKTV’s application. HKTV has been self-produced a significant number of dramas, and have evidently produced them with sincerity. PCCW’s NOW TV also produces some entertainment programmes in preparation of the free-to-air license. However, the quality of iCable’s Channel 1, which is a trial channel for its then potential free-to-air license, is appalling. Should Fantastic TV adopt the operation of iCable Channel 1, it is certain that the public will not accept such “product”.
The only shortcoming of HKTV is its financial. iCable and PCCW are both major consortium in Hong Kong, Wong is merely an entrepreneur that challenges the big corporate. However, Wong has invested US$650 million in HKTV. HKTV, just like iCable and PCCW will not be broadcasting via the atmospheric radio waves (which is exclusively used by TVB and ATV, that means in order to watch these so-called free-to-air channels, users will have to install a decoder box for each channel), meaning public radio wave bandwidth is not involved, it is weird that the government saw financial capabilities as a major factor to win the licenses.
Even if political issues and public opinion control are the factors considered during the evaluation process, it is still unclear why HKTV was the only one not granted the license. Although Wharf Holdings, the parent company of iCable, follows China Government’s directions religiously, iCable news has always been rather critical on news reports on China. Despite the recent incident where editor’s commentary in Hong Kong Economic Journal was removed without reasons (and the editor and his team have soon resigned), NOW TV’s news channel remains neutral compare to the the pro-establishment and pro-China stance TVB and ATV have adopted. On the other hand, Ricky Wong’s HKTV focuses only on dramas and does not put much effort on news, isn’t that exactly what China Government/Peking wants?
The truth is, to strive for building “Hong Kong television industry” is the real reason why HKTV’s application was rejected.
TV dramas had been a key tool for exporting Hong Kong culture to ethnic Chinese communities around the world. People in Singapore, Malaysia, US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, even China love Hong Kong dramas. To Peking, if Hong Kong dramas regain their popularity amongst the ethnic Chinese in the world, no doubt the impact of China produced dramas that are exported to the ethnic Chinese communities will be weakened, which will also weaken the China Government’s control over national Chinese’ ideology. After Peking gain control over ATV, the quality of ATV’s dramas plummeted – unlike in the 90s when ATV produced controversy dramas, for example, My Date with a Vampire. Some time ago, RTHK’s television production team was once the cradle for movie makers. However, in recent years, RTHK’s TV team has not been producing much except dramas that help promote Government departments’ work and mission. A recent RTHK drama that attracts audience is actually an outsourced production.
As for the rapid decline of TVB’s dramas quality, Peking is definitely please to witness this. This probably also explains why TVB dramas nowadays are unrealistic, in fact far from reality, and Communications Authority is ignoring all the complaints about TVB’s programmes having violated the Generic Code of Practice on Television Programme Standards. With the appalling quality of dramas, Hong Kong and overseas audiences would choose to watch dramas produced by China or other countries. The ultimate goal is to, in fact, root out the influence of Hong Kong culture, so that the target of “Hong Kong-China integration” can be achieved. Ricky Wong’s HKTV uses movie grade machines and techniques to film TV dramas is the most important reason for not being granted a license.
Both CEPA’s joint-filming policy and HKTV’s license application being denied, are clear evidences to show that it is Peking’s aim and core policy to destroy Hong Kong culture.
Supporting HKTV in this incident is not only defending the system in Hong Kong and the citizens’ right to watch free-to-air TV channels, it is also defending the creative industry and deeply rooted culture in Hong Kong. The reasons why Peking rejected HKTV’s application are way beyond the imagination of the majority of Hong Kongers. One must understand the linear cultural policy in China to see this through.
Martin Oei, Public Affairs Commentator