30th October 2013
Multiple Functional Constituency Lawmakers are Connected to Existing TV Operators
Hong Kong SAR Government rejected HKTV’s license application and issued two licenses to Cable TV and NowTV. The beneficiaries are not only the two paid TV companies (Cable and Now), but also TVB. In early November, the Legislative Council (Legco) will decide whether the Legco will use the Legislative Council Powers and Privileges Ordinance to investigate the matter. However, under the separate vote count system, it is unlikely to be passed by the Functional Constituency (FC). A number of FC members who plan to vote against the bill have interests in three of the TV broadcasters.
Ma Fung-kowk of the Sports, Performing Arts, Culture and Publication Division, said he would abstain. Chairman of the Film Development Council (FDC), Ma declared to the FDC that he is a director of A Stars Entertainment Group, but he did not declare such position to the Legco. A Stars Entertainment Group holds a number of other entertainment companies, including A Stars Production, A Stars Entertainment and Apps Stars World. Directors of these companies include Eric Tsang Chi-wai and former ATV executive Lai Wah-man.
TVB is a customer of A Stars Production, which produces programmes and advertisements. These programmes are broadcast on TVB and NowTV’s paid TV channels. The parent company of A Stars Production is A Stars World Entertainment Group Limited, which is believed to be the same company of Ma’s given the similarity of the names.
Although it is uncertain if Ma’s Major Trend Entertainment Limited conduct businesses with TV channels, it produces TV programmes and movies. Ma has not responded to enquiries about such matter.
Andrew Leung Kwan-yuen, Legco representative of the Industrial Secotr, from Business and Professionals Alliance for Hong Kong (BPA) became a non-executive director of The Wharf’s Harbour Centre Development since last July. According to Harbour Centre Development’s annual report, Leung owns 9,535 shares in Cable TV (which owns Fantastic TV, one of the new licensees) and 6,629 shares in The Wharf. Since his shareholdings in both companies are less in less than 1%, he is not required by the Legco to declare his interests. He received US$2,500 director emoluments last year. Leung is the Chairman of the House Committee of the Legco but did not vote last week on the TV license issue. His party, BPA, however, voted against the the bill. He is expected to vote against the upcoming bill as well. Leung also did not response to media enquiry.
Abraham Razack, representing the real estate and construction industry in the FC, also has potential conflict of interests. He has been a non-executive director of ITC Corporation, of which is chaired by Chan Kwok-keung, a major shareholder of TVB. Razack is also the Deputy Chairman and a non-executive director of ITC Properties, which is also owned by ITC Corporation. Razack received US$52,000 director emoluments from both companies last fiscal year.
Last week when the Legco was reviewing the bill to use Power and Privilege Ordinance to investigate the TV license issuance, Razack voted against the bill. However, he did not declare his interests prior to the vote. He responded to enquiry yesterday that Chan Kwok-keung’s shareholding in TVB is a private investment and has no relations to ITC Corporation, hence there is no conflict of interests so he will not excuse himself for the upcoming bill voting.
Former screenwriter and director of HKTV Choi Kam-yuen, who is still stationing outside the Government Headquarter, said that although the Legco does not specify that lawmakers with indirect interests in the matter should not vote on the bill, but as a decent lawmaker one should excuse oneself to avoid any potential conflicts.
Choi Kam-yuen said that Starry Lee Wai-king from Democratic Alliance for Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong (DAB), who disclosed that she works for KPMG which is the auditor of Cable TV and excused herself from the Executive Council (Exco) meeting about the TV license issuance, and Exco members Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee and Jeffery Lam Kin Fung should not join upcoming bill voting, because their decision at the Legco on this bill could be directly conflicting with their seats at the Exco.
Two Legco members from Liberal Party who said they would vote for the bill to investigate the license issuance have indirect interests in Cable TV too. Frankie Yik Chi-ming is a senior executive at The Wharf and a director at both The Wharf’s Harbour Centre Development and HACTL. He also holds shares in The Wharf and its parent Wheelock & Company. Vincent Fang Kang from Liberal Party has been a non-executive director of The Wharf since 1993 and received US$13,000 director emoluments last year.