17th October 2013
Member of Communications Authority: Government Being Unreasonable
Only the public was shocked by the Hong Kong SAR Government’s denial of HKTV’s free-to-air TV license application, there are some anger coming from the Communications Authority too. Simon Ho Sai-hau, a member of the Communications Authority’s Broadcast Complaints Committee, issued a statement criticising the government’s reason for restricting the issuance of new license was a paradox, and demands an explanation for the selective license issuance. When asked if his view would upset the authority, Ho said he is not worried, “my responsibilities include making comments, if they find my comments inappropriate, there’s nothing I could do.”
Simon Ho issued the statement around mid-night on the 15th October which says that the government using the excuse of preventing over-competition in order to limit the number of new licenses is a paradox, “a paradox that is beyond anyone’s understanding”. Ho thinks that the government should not have make any commercial judgement for the existing licensees and the potential licensees, and should not protect or be partial to any market participants.
During the interview, Ho said that the government has turn a good thing into bad and said that if the government had other concerns when the consultant offered their professional recommendation, it should have discussed it openly. Raymond Roy Wong from the Communications Authority, however, said he “does not have a view” on the licensing issue. “The things we presented to the Executive Council were not decisions, but recommendations. You can recommend, but they do not have to accept. They have their only jurisdiction.” Wong also said that once the authority submitted its recommendations, its responsibility is fulfilled.
In Legislative Council, lawmakers across all parties request the government to explain the reasons for rejecting HKTV’s application. Multiple lawmakers even condemn the government’s “black box operation” and the rejection of HKTV’s application during the debate on the motion of no confidence in CY Leung. Ronnie Tong Ka-wah, senior barrister, pointed out that the High Court has grounds to accept the application for a judicial review over the matter, “if the court finds the Executive Council had taken some irrelevant factors into account during the evaluation process, for example, political factors, it can accept (the judicial review application).”
Tong, during the motion of no confidence, also criticised the government for destroying the procedural justice. He pointed out that in 2009, the government invited HKTV to submit its application, and the Broadcasting Authority agreed to issue three licenses to all three applicants in principle, “but now only HKTV’s application is denied, it is clearly a black box operation.” Claudia Mo Meng-ching of Civic Party said she has already written to Information Technology Committee requesting a meeting on the matter and planned a protest on Sunday (20th October) outside the Government Headquarter.
Pro-government lawmakers also urged the government for further explanation. Michael Tien Puk-sun, New People’s Party, said that using the excuse of Executive Council’s confidential materials and without providing further explanations makes it “difficult to explain to the public”. He also criticised that the last government did not state clear that how many free-to-air TV channels Hong Kong market can accommodate, but this government clearly have changed its stance, an explanation to the public is a must.
Largest Lay Off in History of HK TV Industry, HKTV Staff Still Support the Company: HKTV’s Sin Is the Public Support
As HKTV’s application being denied, the largest lay off in the history of Hong Kong’s TV industry broke out. Ricky Wong Wai-kay, Chairman of HKTV, called for two staff meetings yesterday and announced the decision of a massive lay off. The atmosphere at the meetings was solemn. However, HKTV employees expressed their understanding and support, and responded to the announcement with applause. Some of the employees as well as Wong shed tears. HKTV’s staff criticised the government, “HKTV’s sin is the wide support in the public, Ricky Wong’s popularity is much higher than that of CY Leung.”
With the hope of launching the channels goes down the drain, many HKTV employees put on black clothes to go to work yesterday as a silent protest against the government. The 320 employees HKTV plans to lay off are all non-contract employees. Some of the contract employees who will be kept in position are in the creative team and production team, with contract terms range from three and four years long, and they will leave the company once the contract term is completed. Yip Sai-hong, an editor at HKTV who joint two years ago with staff number 004, is one of the first to join HKTV. There is one more year before his contract ends. He said that the company will carry on producing scripts but will not be filming any, “scripts are the company’s assets too.”
The filming of one of Yip’s creation, “My Mother is Black Rose”, is completed. However, another of his work “Revenge” will not be filmed despite the script is done. He quoted Wong at the staff meeting, “he even mentioned which script will be filmed and which will not. This shows that he is responsible.” He is angry and upset about the government’s decision on denying HKTV’s application, “it’s not because of the result, but why has Hong Kong become the way it is. The system is utterly ‘rule by man’, so if one is not favoured by the power, one will not get the license.”
Chong Yuen-ping, a junior screenwriter, said that each of the staff meeting lasted for around 20 minutes. The atmosphere was solemn, but all employees gave Wong rounds of applause when he entered and left the meeting. Wong also delivered the company’s decision on laying off staff in person, majority of the staff supported the decision, “many of us cried, so did Mr Wong.”
Chong published an article on Facebook yesterday, entitled “I still believe hard work is the alias of miracle”. In the article she said, “from looking forward to unable to believe, and now sad and angry. My emotions have yet to clam down.” She also said that, “this is not just losing a television channel, but a dream that all (staff) share”. She urges Hong Kongers to protest on Sunday in black outfit to express their wish for more free-to-air TV channels.
As a non-contract employee, Chong feels lost, “it is a small industry. There will be a large number of screenwriter in the market (after the lay off), none of us know what to do”. Another staff said that some suggested to reduce salary rather than lay off, but the suggestion was not accepted by Wong. Alex Pao Wai-chung, editor of drama “Night Shift”, said that he is disappointed by the government’s decision but not at all surprised, “because many of CY Leung’s policies are completely against the public opinions. HKTV’s sins is the wide support it enjoys from the public. Ricky Wong’s popularity is far higher than CY Leung’s. A government like this certainly won’t like to see someone enjoys a higher popularity than itself.”