17th October 2013
Lost in an Unfair Competition
Fifteen hours after HKTV was given its “death penalty”, the company announced to lay off 320 members of its staff, the largest scale lay off in television history in Hong Kong. The employees of HKTV who all sang “This is our dream” at the company’s launching ceremony have had their dream of three years ruined. Ricky Wong Wai-kay, Chairman of HKTV, attended an all staff meeting on 16th October morning where he wept in front of his hundreds of staff. He also said to them that he will file a judicial review to challenge the government’s decision, and sighed that (HKTV) lost in an unfair competition. He choked with sob when he thanked his staff, “I owe you all a great deal”.
At the press conference, Wong emphasised that laying off two third of the HKTV staff is not a threat to the government, but is an attempt to clear the uncertainties all the staff have. Before the press conference, Wong went to two staff meetings. When asked whether he wept at the meetings, Wong replied with a forced smile, “I could not help…” and immediately he did not say a word for a few seconds and thanked his staff for joining the company before a license was secured even though they all have families and financial responsibilities, and he choked, “I feel that I owe them a great deal”.
The Hong Kong SAR Government announced on the 15th that it has denied HKTV’s application for a free-to-air TV license. Within half a day, the Facebook page created to support HKTV has received over 300,000 “Likes”. A protest is also being arranged for this coming Sunday (19th October). Ricky Wong pointed out that the government is clearly against the public opinion, and said that a few TVB staff whom he doesn’t know messaged him with words of encouragement. He said that he supports HKTV staff to protest and express their discontent against the government, but will not be joining the rally, “one must focus on tackling the challenges during difficult times, and the most important thing is to spend every precious moment on things that are effective”. Wong said that HKTV’s production capability is just next to that of TVB, if he could go back in time, he would have applied for a license and he has no regret. He is also determined to devote his life in creative industry, but has never considered acquiring ATV.
Wong also explained that he would seek out every possible legal channel to challenge the government decision, including judicial review. When asked if he thinks Hong Kong is place that is “rule by law” or “rule by man”, Wong said, “I do not wish to answer such a sorrowful question.” During an interview with RTHK, Wong said that the HKSAR Government once announced that it is a “black and white” policy to not have an upper limit for the number of new license, but it has completely changed its policy to “a beauty parade of picking two out of three” without notifying HKTV. He believes that this is a major administration mistake and is therefore likely to seek judicial review. Given that he does not know why HKTV is not granted a license, there is no point to reapply at this stage.
Chu King-kei, Creative Director at HKTV, said that there are around 20 non-contract staff will be laid off immediately, that is one third of the department. Each of them will be given a month of salary as payment in lieu of notice. The remaining staff at the department will finish over ten stories they have been working on, as per Wong’s request. Most of these remaining employees still have over one year of contract period.
Philip Li Koi-hop, Founding Chairman of People’s Opposition Party, has sought judicial review from the High Court asking the court to overrule the government’s decision to deny HKTV’s application. Li said that the decision with clear political orientation and is extremely unfair. He also demands Gregory So Kam-leung, Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development, to detail the entire event to the court.
17th October 2013
Peking’s Order to Shut Out Ricky Wong
More and more evidences appear and pointed that HKTV’s application for a free-to-air TV license being denied is not a decision made by the civil servant within the Hong Kong SAR Government, but an order directly given by Peking/China Government and CY Leung – a “political assassination”. An official, whose identity is concealed, involved in the research of such license issuance, said that the former Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen’s “decision” to delay the issuance of free-to-air TV licenses was in fact a direct order from Peking. This official also believe that the decision for not issuing license to HKTV is merely Leung and Executive Council executing orders from Peking.
This unnamed official said that the HKSAR Government has already decided back in 2012 to issue new free-to-air TV licenses to all applicants, including Ricky Wong’s HKTV, as they have all fulfilled relevant criteria. A document was submitted to the Executive Council recommending issuing three new licenses. However, such recommendation went into a black hole after it was submitted to the Executive Council, “it is known that (the recommendation) was ‘trapped’ inside the Executive Council”.
Afterward, rumours within the government suggest that Peking does not want any new license to be issued especially the Chief Executive “election” and Legislative Council election were both to be held in 2012, “Peking worried that with one additional TV channel, comes with one more voice which will affect the social and political stability”.
Some pro-government lawmakers, and this unnamed official, believe that CY Leung and the Executive Council are the executors of the “political assassination” of Ricky Wong, and the order came directly from Peking.
Some said that Ricky Wong upset China when he said that ATV will not become one of the CCTV channels when he was running ATV a while back, “even if the Hong Kong Liaison Office did not snitched on him, Peking would never trust him” and said that Wong have overestimated his importance to China, “they approach you as part of the united front procedure does not mean that they trust you, especially television is a very sensitive industry!”
Another source cited an insider that having four TV stations is the limit was not something the HKSAR Government said based on market research, “Peking and CY Leung wanted to get rid of Ricky Wong, so the government said that Hong Kong could only accommodate four free-to-air TV stations instead of five.” He also said that the government will certainly not disclose all the relevant documents and consultancy reports, “simply because once they are disclosed, everyone would know this is a political decision”.