Saturday, October 19, 2013

Additional articles concerning the free TV license debacle

I know people are probably tired of reading about the whole free TV license debacle and I apologize to those who may be annoyed with the tremendous number of articles I’ve been posting on the topic.  It’s just that I’ve been following this issue for so long already (close to 3 years) and now that it’s over, I feel that I owe it to myself and HKTV to try and get as much information out there as possible.  Sure, nothing will change and at the end of the day, I will still feel extremely frustrated and disappointed (and angry and sad) at how this situation played out – but at least I can say that I tried as hard as I could to do my part.

I’m not going to comment too much about the articles below, as they pretty much speak for themselves (plus I’ve said WAY TOO MUCH the past couple of days on this issue already….)

Since I’ve already expressed my support for HKTV and all of its employees repeatedly on Weibo the past couple of days (and technically have been supporting behind the scenes via my blog and Weibo through all the stuff I’ve been posting about the company, its artists, and this whole license issue), I don’t see the need to rehash everything here.  All I’m going to say is this:

Best of luck to all of HKTV’s staff and also to Ricky Wong!   Regardless of who is right or wrong or who should take the blame for what, at the end of the day, I don’t really care anymore – I just hope that things work out for all of you (especially for the staff who got laid off) and, most importantly, that none of you give up on your dream.  Yes, I know for a fact that it will be easier said than done to continue persevering / pursuing one’s dream and passion in an entertainment environment that will most likely never accept it or allow it – after all, I’ve ‘followed’ the HK entertainment industry long enough to know how things work in that circle.   I know it’s useless to hope for change, since I’m well aware that the change you were all pushing for is never going to happen given the dismal state HK is in currently (and will continue to be in for decades to come) – but at least you can all be reassured by the fact that you put your hearts and souls into trying and that, along the way, you gained many supporters (like me) who share your passion and desire to make a difference.  Good luck and keep up that fighting spirit!


Article 1:

Who's who of film unite to attack TV licence decision

A line-up of big names in the film industry will speak out at a media conference today on the serious impact they feel the government's television licensing decision will have on the city's cultural and creative industries.

Award-winning directors Derek Yee Tung-sing and Andrew Lau Wai-keung are among representatives from 10 industry groups who will detail how the outcome will affect investment and operation in the industries.

The government has been reluctant to explain why i-Cable and PCCW subsidiaries were successful in securing free-television licences but not Hong Kong Television Network (HKTV).

"It is not just about a lack of explanation," Federation of Hong Kong Filmmakers chairman Ng See-yuen said.

The licensing issue has dragged on for nearly four years. The Broadcasting Authority recommended in 2011 to approve all three applicants, in line with a 1998 television policy review that advocated an open market with unlimited free-to-air licences.

After losing the bid, HKTV chairman Ricky Wong Wai-kay laid off 320 staff and is preparing for a legal battle. The ensuing public outcry has seen nearly half a million signatures in a Facebook petition demanding HKTV get a licence. Thousands are expected to join a rally tomorrow.

"The television licences concern Hong Kong's needs, the society's demands and also the city's cultural and creative environment," Ng said. "This will also affect the future of the young."

Executive Council convenor Lam Woon-kwong refused to discuss the decision-making, citing confidentiality rules.

Former chief secretary Anson Chan Fang On-sang said the government owed Hongkongers an explanation about why it had broken its promise to allow unlimited licences. "Exco rules protect the confidentiality of advice tendered by individual members; they are not an excuse for refusing to disclose reasons for policy decisions that the public has a legitimate right to know," she said.

Director So Man-chung, of the HKTV staff union, said he expected 200 to 300 existing and former employees to join the Sunday action. The group will arrive at the government headquarters at 3pm and staff members will go on stage to share their experiences and grievances.

At the same time, Free TV Action - the group behind the Facebook page - will lead a protest march from the East Point Centre in Causeway Bay to the Tamar offices. Student group Scholarism has confirmed it will attend the protest.


Article 2:

Secretive U-turn by government may help Ricky Wong's cause

A clandestine change in a government policy on issuing free-television licences is likely to be a central argument in investor Ricky Wong Wai-kay's imminent court challenge of the decision to deny him entry to the market, two legal scholars say.

A shocked Wong had complained he was unaware the government was going to cap the number of new licences at two, after it said in 1998 that there would be no ceiling.

Law academics believe his case is "reasonably arguable". If Wong wins the judicial challenge, the court will probably send the case back to the Executive Council for reconsideration, they say.

Eric Cheung Tat-ming, principal law lecturer at the University of Hong Kong, also noted suggestions in the media that the government's aim in approving only two new players might be to ensure the survival of the beleaguered ATV. If that was the case, it would have erred in taking into account an irrelevant consideration, Cheung said.

"It cannot be right to limit the number of new licences in order to protect existing players," he said. "That is contrary to the original policy objective to introduce competition and against the rule of survival of the fittest.
"The case on the whole appears to be reasonably arguable."

Cheung was commenting on the legal grounds Wong might use in an application for a judicial review that he has said he would file in the next few weeks.

If Hong Kong Television Network, owned by Wong, could show the government's "sudden change" in policy was contrary to the original objective to introduce competition, the court might set aside the decision, Cheung said.

His colleague, associate professor Benny Tai Yiu-ting, said such a change in policy might violate HKTV's "legitimate expectation" that the licence was in the bag, rendering the decision illegal.

Tai said HKTV had a chance of winning the judicial review.

"There is a chance on three grounds - illegality, procedural impropriety and unreasonableness," he said.

Media reports have revealed that HKTV was not ranked last in a consultancy report commissioned by the Communications Authority.

In that light, Tai said, HKTV could argue that the decision was unreasonable.

A third HKU academic, Professor Simon Young, said the crux of the case was procedural fairness, which in turn hinged on the government's failure to give the reasons for its decision in order to protect confidentiality.

"There are competing interests. On the one hand, there is the interest of the rule of law: how can you effectively challenge an important government decision without knowing the reasons or at least getting access to the reasons?" Young asked.

"The other is the integrity of the decision-making by the executive of the highest level and the importance of having confidentiality in that process."

Tai said the process of issuing licences might be held up by the looming court application.

Correction: an earlier version of the story identified Eric Cheung Tat-ming as an assistant professor at the University of Hong Kong. He is in fact the principal law lecturer at HKU.


Article 3:

Agency leaders shake heads at Hong Kong free-to-air TV decision

Source:  Campaign Asia

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