Thursday, October 17, 2013

More Thoughts on the Free TV License Issue…..

Looks like this whole free TV license thing has created a huge backlash both amongst the general public as well as within the entertainment industry. 

Below are a few articles that came out the last couple days that look at the issue from various angles – all are pretty good reads that help provide more insight into the situation (and help explain why so many people are upset over the government’s decision).  I especially recommend reading article #3....

One thing that I do want to say about the laying off of HKTV’s employees….I’m still pissed that it had to happen and I still feel sorry for the artists who are out of a job now and must find another means of making a living.  But I guess if we try to look at it from a more positive angle, it’s not necessarily a bad thing in a sense…another way to look at it is that HKTV is letting the 320 people go so that they can pursue opportunities elsewhere and not be tied down to a company that won’t be able to do much for them now without a license.   Yes, Ricky Wong could probably pursue other outlets if he wanted to, but whichever option he takes, it will probably still be a long, tedious process, so there’s no point in dragging everyone along for the ride at this point.  It’s better to just release them all now, then later on if Ricky happens to be successful in whatever venture he ends up doing, he can always hire them all back at that time.

The interesting thing is that so far, I have yet to read a single negative comment from HKTV people about Ricky Wong or his company.  Even the people who are being laid off are standing behind Ricky and have nothing but good things to say about the company and his leadership.  Of course, I know there will be commenters out there who will say that all those people have been ‘brainwashed’ by HKTV, which is fine, as people can think what they want.    But as far as I’m concerned, for people who are being laid off by a company and who will no longer have any ties to the company whatsoever to still sing the company’s praises and loudly voice that they have absolutely no regrets of being a part of that company, it shows that the company must be doing SOMETHING right.  The unity and passion (for their craft) that I’ve witnessed amongst the HKTV artists and behind the scenes crew the last couple months have been very refreshing – it’s something I hadn’t seen in the HK entertainment industry in a very long time ….too bad we won’t be able to see more of it now (thanks to the HK government)…..


Article 1:

Source:  The Standard

Rally backers looking for trouble

Winnie Chong
Thursday, October 17, 2013

Some people posting on a Facebook page calling for a protest rally at government headquarters on the free- TV license row - which by last night had 390,000 "likes" - want action on Friday, not Sunday.

Sunday is a day off, one noted, so better Friday as "the government only cares if there is a threat."

While most posters supported HKTV, the failed license applicant, TVB artist Ronald Law Kwan-moon was among the exceptions.

He said owner Ricky Wong should stop blaming the government and citing a lack of "public justice" for his failure.

But this led to people leaving messages on Law's Facebook page.

"Hope you can think clearly and withdraw your message," one commented.

And at an HKTV staff meeting yesterday, So Man-chung, the main producer of drama The Borderline, wore black.

It was a pity viewers may never get to see dramas HKTV hoped to produce, said the former TVB director, who claimed politics was behind the licensing decision.

"I thought HKTV could become Hong Kong's Pixar," So added. "But now there's no such chance."

And So said he did not regret joining HKTV. "Our boss has given us lots of space and freedom for creation, which is not given at TVB."

An IT staffer named Chung said he was shocked that HKTV was laying off so many people.

A staffer named Wong said he had told HKTV that if it needs to lay off people "it should sack someone like me, a younger person, in the first batch. We do not mind advancing and retreating with the company."

Beyond the industry, Civic Party lawmaker Ronny Tong Ka-wah said the license decision "projected a feeling that the government is protecting an operator who monopolizes the market.

"The decision completely violated the competition ordinance."

And Charles Peter Mok, a lawmaker for the information technology constituency, bemoaned the fact the licensing decision meant that HKTV was now having to fire staff because it had become the operator most active in investing in television in Hong Kong.


Article 2:

Source:  South China Morning Post

TV licensing row shows up fickle policy, critics say

Questions of judgment and policy consistency hung over the government as critics scoffed at what they saw as a lame explanation of why a high-profile broadcasting investor failed to secure a free-to-air television licence.

Veterans familiar with the industry are unconvinced by a minister's account on Tuesday in granting licences to i-Cable's Fantastic Television and PCCW's HK Television Entertainment (HKTVE) but not to Hong Kong Television Network (HKTV), chaired by media maverick Ricky Wong Wai-kay.

One critic suggested political undertones were at work as Wong had vowed during his 12-day reign at ATV that he would not turn the station into another CCTV, the mainland's nationwide state broadcaster.

On a radio show yesterday, Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development Greg So Kam-leung said HKTV lost in terms of overall competitiveness.

So pointed to the importance of relevant experience. "We are not talking about the filming of one or two dramas, but running a television station," he said.

One marked difference between HKTV and the other two was the number of proposed channels: HKTV wanted to run 30 channels within six years of launch; Fantastic TV and HKTVE had suggested just two, he noted.

The Executive Council reached its conclusion after assessing the financial capability and programme planning of each applicant, he said.

The comments hinted that Wong could have been deemed too aggressive for sustainable development of the market.

Simon Ho Sai-hau, who sits on the Communications Authority's broadcast complaints committee, said that if 30 channels were too many, the government could ask the number to be cut.

Broadcasters commonly ran dozens of channels using shows produced externally, Ho said. As long as the station focused on one or two core channels, it would not strain finances.

Peter Lam Yuk-wah, vice-president of the Televisioners Association, said: "An investor can always hire experienced staff members to help him."

Lam questioned if the rejection was due to political reasons. "The central government may think it's hard to control him."

Political concerns aside, both veterans also pointed to government inconsistencies over liberalising the market.

As early as 1998, the government wanted to open the free-television sector to competition and emphasised that it would not limit the number of licences.

Yesterday, lawmakers got the latest government document that showed the rules of the game had changed over the years without the applicants' knowledge, which probably explained Wong's shock at his failed bid.

According to the document, a consultant had told the authority that the local market might not be able to support five players.

But the regulator was of the view that all three applicants fulfilled the financial and programming requirements and should receive approval. Market sustainability should not be a primary consideration, it said.

Both TVB and ATV opposed the recommendation and Exco, in view of their concerns, decided to introduce new operators in a "gradual and orderly approach" to minimise any adverse impact on the market, the document showed.

Lam said: "The government never informed the applicants of the new approach. In fact, it never told them what the criteria were for determining the winner. Why is it okay to have four television stations but not five?"


Article 3:

***NOTE:  This is an opinion piece written by a reporter at SCMP.***

Denial of licence for Ricky Wong's HKTV sorriest episode in free-TV saga

Written by Alex Lo at SCMP

Greg So Kam-leung had more than two years to defuse a political time bomb by coming up with an equitable decision on granting new free-TV licences and giving a reasonable explanation for it. Yet he failed miserably this week, and as a result more than a quarter of a million people expressed support for an online campaign against his decision. It's hard to screw up an official announcement this badly even if you try.

Thanks to the commerce chief, we have just seen revealed how our government really operates: favour the companies of established tycoons, undermine the investment and creative efforts of independent entrepreneurs, and exercise excessive state interference while claiming to open up an over-regulated, monopolistic market.

So duly announced two new licences will go to subsidiaries of PCCW and i-Cable, companies controlled respectively by Richard Li Tzar-kai, younger son of Hong Kong's most powerful businessman, Li Ka-shing, and Wharf supremo Peter Woo Kwong-ching, a former chief executive candidate. Left out in the cold is Hong Kong Television Network, led by Ricky Wong Wai-kay, the loud and brash entrepreneur who helped shake up the city's telecom and broadband industries.

Perhaps the government is too afraid he might do the same to the TV industry. In his announcement, So mentioned repeatedly the need to introduce new TV operators "in a gradual and orderly manner", a phrase he borrowed from the government's playbook on democratic reform. God forbid we have an operator that produces game-changing hit series and disruptive technologies.

So made much of financial stability. But we are not talking about too-big-to-fail banks. So what if a broadcaster goes under? Viewers will have fewer crappy soap operas to watch! No real explanation was given why HKTV was rejected when it has disclosed the most to the public about its finances - HK$900 million invested so far - and operations, such as the number of hours of original production and overseas programme purchases. We know next to nothing about the other two rivals.

This government is always complaining about Hong Kong losing its competitive edge. Guess who is to blame.

1 comment:

  1. I just can't believe this, will we ever get to see the dramas that HKTV produced? What will be their future plans? I can't believe this just sadden and speechless! I already stopped watching TVB's dramas so now I'll just continue watching American and UK dramas and animes. No doubt this decision has politics and government supporting TVB's monopoly written all over it! No clue what NowTV will be able to produce but they said from day one that their focus is mainland market so I doubt they'd be any competition to TVB.

    Maybe HKTV shouldn't have outright said they won't focus on mainland market. I feel with China's communism and continuing strangle on HK that might have been their down fall.