Saturday, October 26, 2013

UPDATES on free TV license issue and HKTV protests

Here are a few recent articles (from yesterday and today) from SCMP that provide some good updates on the whole licensing issue as well as some of the highlights from HKTV’s ongoing protests in front of government headquarters (though the latest news from HKTV Trade Union’s Facebook page is that they will stop camping out in front of government headquarters and send everyone home to rest, since they have another big rally scheduled for November 6th).

With regard to the specific articles below….

While on the one hand, I’m happy to see all the support that HKTV has been getting, especially from high profile stars like Chow Yun Fat and Andy Lau, the situation is actually looking more and more grim as the days go on.   As much as I hate to say it, HKTV’s chances of getting a license are pretty much zero at this point (I explain why in the comments to some of my previous posts) and despite all the support for HKTV from the HK general public as well as from so many celebrities, there’s basically no chance in hell that Chief Executive C.Y. Leung is going to take any action on the matter (HKTV Trade Union gave the Chief Executive 7 days to provide an explanation and he obviously ignored that deadline).  With the type of leadership they have currently, well, unfortunately, HK is officially ‘screwed’…..

I also wanted to make a quick comment about the Frankie Lam article.  I was actually a bit saddened when I read it because I truly do like Frankie and Kenix (both are definitely on my ‘favorites’ list in terms of actors and actresses I like watching) – it will definitely be unfortunate if they do decide to move out of HK because of  all the issues with the city.  So I guess this means we can add Frankie and Kenix to the list of artists who will no longer be active in the HK entertainment industry in the near future (in addition to Deno Cheung, Wilson Tsui, Rain Lau, and others who have said that they will likely change professions if things don’t work out with the license thing).  Oh and let’s not forget Benji and Lesley, whose careers are pretty much over now (which I’m definitely saddened over because both of them have such great potential in music).  I actually dread seeing how this whole issue is going to ultimately end because so far, I don’t like what I’m seeing.  I hate to be pessimistic, but I can’t help thinking that the fallout from this issue is going to be worse than we expected and that the ‘casualties’ resulting from this free TV license war are only going to increase as the months go on….


Article 1:  

Andy Lau among celebrities to add support to last night of HKTV protest

Celebrities, including actor Andy Lau Tak-wah, offered their support to the tens of thousands of protesters outside government headquarters last night.

It was the sixth and probably final night of the week-long protest of the government's decision to deny Hong Kong Television Network's (HKTV) free-to-air TV licence application.

The space outside Tamar government headquarters, also known as Civic Square, and Tin Mei Avenue were packed within half an hour of the protest start at 8pm.

Those who were unable to squeeze into the space were later directed to Tamar Park and the Legco car park.

HKTV crew and actors, as well as industry veterans, took turns to share their thoughts on stage.

Celebrities including Anita Yuen Wing-yee and Ekin Cheng were also among the protestors captured in a film shown on big screens erected in Civic Square. Actor Paul Chun Pui also appeared on stage with his children, HKTV artists Benji and Lesley Chiang.

HKTV staff union chairman Henry Yeung Chi-ho estimated more than 100,000 people attended the rally.

Police said that by 10.30pm, the number peaked at 11,900.

Singer and actor Andy Lau, whom some joked would make an ideal chief executive candidate because of his popularity, showed his support in a video broadcast at the rally. When his message was shown on screen, some screamed: "The chief executive speaks!"

The crowd's emotions were stirred when British singer Kashy Keegan performed his London Olympics anthem This is My Dream. The song was later adopted by HKTV.

"I'm really touched people have embraced the song and got behind it ... It's about persevering," said Keegan.

Lyricist Lin Xi also drew a big response from the crowd. "The nature of creativity is revolution," he said. "If you talk about your dream, and no one says you're crazy, your dream stinks like preserved fish."

Veteran actor Chun's arrival on stage came as a surprise. "Support HKTV!" he exclaimed. "When I said I wanted to enter the industry, my parents said, 'You've got to work hard and be prepared.'

"Now my daughter has asked me the same question, and I gave her the same answer. She can do it as long as she likes it and is willing to work hard. But how would I know if the government thinks otherwise?"

Actress Yoyo Mung Ka-wai said: "I have always thought there could only be improvements when there is competition. Why should we make ourselves stop? Why can't we be given the chance to improve?"

Annie Lee, a fashion retailer, was at the rally with her husband, who is a civil servant at the Labour Department. She said they had been sitting outside government headquarters every evening since Sunday, and that they would bring their three children with them to future rallies.

"It's unacceptable that the government ignored the people's will without giving a reason," said Lee.

Article 2:

Frankie Lam vows to quit HK if government refuses HKTV a licence

A top actor with Hong Kong Television Network says his family will consider leaving the city if the government is adamant about refusing HKTV's free-to-air television licence application.

Frankie Lam Man-lung described himself as "a Hongkonger through and through".

But the government's defence of its licensing decision, without giving a reason, stirred up very gloomy sentiments in both him and his wife, actress Kenix Kwok Ho-ying, about the future of this city, he said.

Lam launched his tirade against the decision in an interview yesterday with the South China Morning Post.

"Hong Kong has turned into a mess. How can people still believe that justice can be upheld in our society?" Lam asked.

"There have been many failed policies, including his [the chief executive's] own illegal structures, since he took office. But still I thought we could give him some time if he admitted his mistakes sincerely.

"If the national education [curriculum] is introduced, I can still choose to send my daughter overseas to study.
But now, this dispute is simply forcing people to turn political," the father of a three-year-old said, during the interview at Hotel Icon.

The couple had agreed to leave the city if there was no turnaround, he said.

Lam said the HKTV rally outside the government headquarters was the only protest he had joined in more than two decades. The last time he joined a protest was in 1989, after the June 4 Tiananmen Square crackdown.

A leading man in countless television dramas, Lam has been in show business for 20 years. He left TVB two years ago to join the new HKTV venture chaired by Ricky Wong Wai-kay and said he has no regrets. "I would never regret that because this is where I have found happiness through the quality of work," he said.

He worked non-stop for five days and nights shooting a TVB drama and sacrifices were made on the show's quality - in a network with no competition.

But at HKTV, he said, Wong would accept nothing but the best. "We are shooting dramas of movie standard. The equipment and the scripts are of the highest standards, and actors get enough rest to enjoy acting and ponder their characters."


Article 3:

Singer Benji Chiang says he fears his singing career is over

Little more than a week ago, Benji Chiang had high hopes for his career as a musician and actor.
Now he's worried he may completely disappear from Hong Kong television.

"I just got KO'd from the industry altogether [by last week's decision by the government not to give Hong Kong Television Network a free-to-air television licence]," the 32-year-old said.

Unlike other former TVB entertainers who have been invited to rejoin the leading free-to-air channel's "big family", Chiang said his chances were slim. "I'm blacklisted," he claimed.

Chiang was sacked in 2011 after seven years as a host of TVB's music programme Global Rhythm and less than a year after he and his sister - as Benji and Lesley - won bronze in the group category of TVB's Jade Solid Gold Best Ten Music Awards for their album, Showtime.

It marked the first time the award had gone to a self-funded album.

Chiang, son of award-winning actor Paul Chun, said he was sacked after being seen at a party hosted by HKTV chief Ricky Wong Wai-kay.

"A production assistant sent me a message saying 'programme direction change, MC change, thank you'."

He then suffered from depression.

Chiang saw hope when HKTV's Wong approached him, offering him acting jobs and a free hand in direction of music programmes, but now he feels he has lost his future. "I have cried three times a day over the past week," he said. "But I won't give up."

Chiang was among tens of thousands of people who took to the streets on Sunday to protest against the government's decision to deny HKTV a licence without an explanation.

He said the decision meant there would be no change to Hong Kong's music scene, which had been strangled by lack of competition in the television industry.

His TVB show, first aired at 11pm, was then put back to 1.30am and eventually ran at 3.30am. TVB's long-time weekly music chart show Jade Solid Gold was turned into a game show. Young people didn't get a chance to learn about local musicians on television, so they turned to pop music from elsewhere, he said.

TVB host Eric Tsang Chi-wai, who stepped down yesterday as chairman of the Performing Artistes Guild after it was criticised for an ambiguous response to the licence row, said the guild had been fighting for the rights of its members and had called upon stations to hire former HKTV staff. He said TVB had extended an invitation, while Cable TV and Now TV had also expressed a willingness to hire.

"From the artists' point of view, the more licences, the better," he said.

The guild came under fire after it did not put its name to a declaration signed by other film industry associations. Tsang said he stepped down as chairman to take responsibility and to protect the guild from negative comments.


Article 4:  

Bid to use special Legco powers to investigate HKTV case falters

Source:  SCMP

Pan-democrats have lost their initial attempt to invoke the legislature's powers to order an investigation into the government decision to deny Hong Kong Television Network a free-to-air television licence.

A motion to apply the Legco (Powers and Privileges) Ordinance was defeated 27 to 33 in the House Committee of the Legislative Council yesterday.

Most pro-establishment members who had spoken out strongly against the government's decision did not put their words into action. All of the "yes" votes came from pan-democrats.

Tabled by information technology representative Charles Mok, the motion was intended to force the government to produce all relevant papers involved in the vetting and approval of licence applications.

One lawmaker abstained, while seven others, including Liberal Party leader James Tien Pei-chun and Labour Party pan-democrat Cyd Ho Sau-lan, neither voted nor abstained.

HKTV chairman Ricky Wong Wai-kay said: "I'm very disappointed … Why are lawmakers not listening to public opinion that overwhelmingly supports the revelation [of documents]? Everyone wants to know the truth."

Mok will have a second chance to table the motion at the full council meeting on November 6.

However, the motion faces a higher threshold at the full meeting. Instead of the simple majority needed on the committee, Mok must achieve majority support in both geographical and functional constituencies, which have 35 legislators in each.

Earlier, Tien had failed to get his Beijing-loyalist allies to sign up to a petition with the pan-democratic camp to appeal for a licence for HKTV. Tien had also indicated that all five Liberal Party lawmakers would support the motion in principle.

Yesterday, he did not vote at all on the motion, and the other four Liberal lawmakers voted against it.

Ma Fung-kwok, lawmaker for sports, performing arts, culture and publication, abstained from the vote, despite having joined calls for an explanation of the rationale behind HKTV's fallout.

The motion failed despite a last-minute amendment by Mok limiting the scope of any disclosure of non-confidential files.

Beijing loyalists expressed concern over a looming judicial review and the Executive Council's confidentiality rule.

Michael Tien Puk-sun of the New People's Party, who did not vote, said Exco's files and records risked being exposed by invoking the ordinance.

"A judicial review is the most effective way to force an official explanation," he said.

Wong will file a legal challenge in "two to three weeks".


Article 5:

Hong Kong's opaque governance exposes Exco as a joke

Source:  SCMP

What purpose is served by the Executive Council? This question comes into sharp focus in the wake of the current TV licensing debacle.

Executive councils were an integral part of the British colonial system, established to ensure governors had the local elite on their side and to provide yet more opportunities to reward allies with the trappings of high office. Notably in Hong Kong, the old executive councils also gave the biggest colonial companies a seat at the top table to ensure the preservation of their interests.

Since their establishment, Excos have largely comprised of senior bureaucrats who run government departments. They are rarely prepared to put their careers on the line by upsetting their bosses, so it is safe to assume that, generally speaking, the advice they proffer is what the boss wants to hear.

No wonder this system appealed to Beijing and the old Exco was incorporated into the new constitution. The Basic Law, however, sheds little light on its functions, merely saying that it "shall be an organ for assisting the Chief Executive in policy-making".

There is now intense controversy over whether its members supported, opposed or even seriously considered the new TV licensing regime that has sparked mass protests. One member, Laura Cha Shih May-lung, has a conflict of interest on this matter but the black-box style of governance favoured by the Leung Chun-ying regime will not even reveal whether this was declared.

Most members of the current Exco, like those of previous councils, are little more than time-servers whose main asset is their loyalty to the chief executive. This situation is not so very different from that which prevailed in the past.

To be fair to Leung, he appointed Lam Woon-kwong as convenor of his Exco. Lam has proved to be independently minded and showed some spirit in leading the Equal Opportunities Commission. It is also possible to make the case for the independence of thought of two other Exco members: Anna Wu Hung-yuk and Bernard Chan. Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee is a wild card but reserves her independence of mind to focus on personal ambitions.

So, in theory, the current Exco has the potential to provide a better source of advice than its predecessors. The important caveat is that, under the Basic Law, the chief executive is not obliged to accept their advice but members, by convention, are obliged to back whatever policy he pursues.

It is rumoured that there was dissent in Exco over the TV licensing decision. It is equally possible that the government's policy simply went through on the nod.

Whatever the truth, the only tangible evidence we have of the fruits of the current Exco's labours is a series of disasters, ranging from the national education debacle to the more personal issues of dealing with corrupt officials and Leung's own illegal structures.

If it is the case that sensible advice was offered by Exco members and that it has been ignored by the chief executive, why are those who gave this advice still members? However, it may be that Exco members either did not spot the political minefields the chief executive intended to ignite or, if they did, kept silent. If this is so, they are worse than useless.

The system does not work now, and might not do so in the unlikely event that a democratic system is devised for electing the chief executive soon. Bereft of the proper checks and balances combined with genuine accountability that make governments function better, Exco is likely to remain an obstacle to good administration and even more likely to continue being the kind of running farce that it is today.

Stephen Vines is a Hong Kong-based journalist and entrepreneur


  1. First off, thanks for your updates on this situation, really appreciate it.

    Second, yes, the situation is looking grim and getting grim. Like I've said in my earlier AF posts, Beijing government felt threatened by HKTV's potential social and political influence/effect over the tv viewers (HK and mainland) thru HKTV's allegedly aggressive, incendiary, controversial and more importantly, thought-provoking contents of their series, which is how HKTV sells/promotes their series. HKTV seen as a rallying media for the Chinese masses' consciousness sounds the dead knell for RC's dream and his people's for this is exactly what Beijing fears - can't have the consciousness of the masses be all stirred up like what Ms. Chow's 'why quality tv in HK is dead' article says. So Beijing had HK lackey, CY Leung, vetoed the exco's votes.

    Third, all these defiant rallies and protests would only serve to prove to Beijing they were right to nip HKTV's growth in the bud if the turnouts are any indication of how it could and would be should HKTV be allowed to grow. Not approving the license is definitely the government's preemptive clamping down strike to prevent what they foresee of HKTV's anti-government media influence -- a bit neurotic in my opinion.

    So though the numerous rallies brought lots of media and online attention and sympathy, they are not helping HKTV's cause to get its license any time soon, most likely never.

    1. @Tamaya: I completely agree with I've said before as well, I absolutely believe that Mainland politics were involved to some extent as well and part of the reason for the license denial was exactly as you stated (fear of what RW is capable of and therefore feeling the need to shut the door before he gets a chance to do anything).

      With all that said however, the ironic part of this whole situation is that since the beginning (and even now, after his license was rejected), Ricky Wong still insists that Mainland (Beijing) politics are not involved -- rather, the decision was motivated by 'internal' politics and interests (specifically business interests) entirely within HK (reading between the lines, looks like he's implying that CY Leung/HK government denied the license because they're trying to protect TVB and ATV and also possibly to appease 'big business' interests due to who NowTV and i-Cable are owned by). This is actually the reason why some people who are very staunchly anti-government are not willing to support him (despite voicing support for the issuance of more licenses and also support for his staff)...while most people agree that the HK government is a 'black box operation', the reasons and motivations behind it are what many people can't seem to agree on at this point.

      Whatever the reason though, you are right in that no matter what happens, RW is not going to get his license....doesn't matter how many more high profile stars speak out or how many more people lose their jobs...with the way the HK government operates, it's just not going to happen....unfortunately, that's reality....

    2. "Ricky Wong still insists that Mainland (Beijing) politics are not involved" -- and that what pisses off many among them, scriptwriter Chow Yuk Ming, who implies at RW's duplicity of not willing to walk the talk cos' he being a businessman is not willing to take up Beijing but let his minions do the dirty work for him.


    3. @Tamaya: Yup, exactly! That’s exactly why even though Chow Yuk Ming agreed to be the guest speaker for one of the HKTV union’s sharing sessions, he made it clear on his Weibo beforehand that he’s doing so out of support for the cause, but not for Ricky Wong himself (he also participated in the protest last last Sunday). And that’s also one of the reasons why so many supporters of the license issue and HKTV in general (myself included) find it hard to ‘support’ Ricky Wong directly. Yes, RW keeps reiterating that he is a ‘business person’ first and foremost, but with how ‘big’ this situation has gotten, it’s probably going to be difficult for him to maintain this position for long.

      Btw….I’ll be posting up a couple more ‘updates’ from SCMP very soon, including one article in particular that’s actually a ‘mini-bio’ of Ricky Wong that recaps quite well how he came about becoming the person he is. There’s also a very interesting editorial written by an expert who summarizes everything that has occurred so far and then explains why the government’s ‘claim’ that the market can’t support 5 TV stations is invalid….both are definitely very interesting reads!

  2. I think Benji and Lesley should consider moving to Taiwan to develop their music career, as TW is a better place than HK IMO.

    1. True if they're fluent enough in Mandarin if not they can always just sign to a music company rather than staying independent. At least signing to a music company will get them a regular salary. I never really agreed with their approach of being independent because most singers need to eventually sign to a big company for more promotion. Just look at Owl City and how he got popular with Fireflies right after he's signed to Universal in US.

    2. At this point I just want to know what RW's plan is because they're obviously not going to get their license and he knew all this protest wasn't going to work. I hope he finds a way to release the already filmed series and continue filming series. I think they will try filming movies as well but series is much important right now for Cantonese speakers.

    3. @sport3888 & fangorn: That's actually a good idea. And no worries about their Mandarin because they are absolutely fluent (there was a Mainland variety show that they appeared on as special guests along with their dad Paul Chun -- it was around the time when their uncle Derek Yee had a new movie out and they went on the show as a surprise to him....both Benji and Lesley spoke Mandarin and their pronunciation was perfect -- if you just listen to them speak, you'd think they were natives or something).

      Personally, I feel it's unfortunately that Benji and Lesley were not able to succeed in HK because they truly do have alot of potential. True, the 'independent' route was very risky, but I applaud them for sticking with it so long and trying so hard to make it work...the other admirable part is that they tried really hard to fight for their music dream and as much as it seemed unattainable, they still gave it a shot nonetheless...that's better than artists who don't truly have a passion for music and are just in it for the fame and money.

    4. @sport3888: Regarding Ricky Wong....yup...he's a smart guy, so I'm sure he's absolutely aware that the protests and such weren't going to work (which is part of the reason why he didn't attend any of the the organizer of the protest is HKTV Trade Union and they've made it clear that the protest has nothing to do with Ricky Wong directly). He's also trying to distance himself not because he doesn't care, but because he's also very well aware that part of the reason for why HKTV failed to get a license is because of him (just take a look online to see how many people have posted hateful comments directed at him) -- he doesn't want to aggravate the situation any further by showing up at the rallies and thereby causing the Media to put a negative spin on the protests or 'harm' HKTV any further.

      I'm also waiting to see what he's going to do with the completed series he has on hand. As I said on AF, as long as he doesn't end up selling those series to TVB or ATV, then I'm fine....

  3. llwy12: Have you read this article by a RW's old school? Looks like the conspiracy against RW's licence application goes deeper than just government politics, it extends to big corporations and organizational entities too because of RW's documentary programs search for truth. I...don't know what to make of that guy's postulation. Read the bottom paragraph of 1st page into the 2nd page. Good thing the article author resides in Canada. But methink this guy's 黃凱芹自治區 accusation may create problems for RW later. Wonder how long before this article will be deleted on weibo. As of now, not many people have responded probably they did not know about it yet. (A Steven Ma fan reposted the article onto her weibo, that's how I came upon it.) Thought it might interest you too.

    1. @Tamaya: Thanks for the link to the article. Definitely a very interesting article, though I also am not sure what to make of it. While the guy does bring up some valid points, it’s hard to say for sure whether what he says truly holds any water. See, the problem with this whole licensing issue too is that there are too many questions and too much room for possible ‘conspiracy theories’ – whether it’s government reasons, business reasons, people got paid off, etc. – that’s why too me, the wisest thing for the government to do (if they truly cared about HK that is) would have been to at least explain how they came up with their decision….at minimum, they would have been able to shut people up as far as the ‘conspiracy theories’ are concerned. But the fact that the government (more specifically Chief Executive CY Leung) refuses to do any explaining and pretty much just lets the issue continue to fester and brew shows me how much he doesn’t care about HK (and reinforces people’s negative perception of him as a ‘puppet’).

      At this point, I honestly feel that RW is already doomed, so whatever articles or ‘theories’ that come out in the future aren’t going to affect him or the issue much. No matter what happens, as long as CY Leung is in power, RW is not going to get his license – I think that’s pretty much a ‘given’ already…it’s just that most Hong Kongers don’t want to give up hope so easily because that means HK is truly over, so whatever options can be explored, everyone is willing to try it.

  4. 30/10星期三,晚上7至11時,是網民為反對港府在電視發牌問題上的黑箱作業,而發起的「熄電視日」

    What's your stand on this call for a boycott on TVB and the other tv stations (we all knew TVB is the target) on Wednesday from 7 pm thru 11 pm, support or oppose? I oppose. Why complicate the heart of the matter of their cause with other irrelevant variables. Their one and only target should be just the HK government and the latter's lack of accountability and transparency for their rejection of HKTV's license, hence the huge public support. Now the protestors can be seen as bullies targeting non relevant entities to accomplish what?

    The HK gov't must be happy to now have TVB as the scapegoat so people would get off their back, while the protesters attack another. Even if tvb's series ratings are truly affected for that night, how does that help the HKTV's true cause; the slipped ratings if they did indeed slip, would only incur the wrath of the cast's fans and supporters, who may have been previously neutral. To reiterate, RW needs a good public relations manager cos' he is truly lack the pr skill.

    1. @Tamaya: I’ve actually been opposed to that boycott from the beginning because I hold the exact same view as you – not only does it NOT accomplish anything, it may also end up backfiring on them (HKTV). And to be quite honest, it’s not like it makes much difference, since a lot of audiences nowadays don’t watch TV much anyway (either because of the poor quality of series or the fact that they can watch on the Internet anytime they want to) – so to me, it’s one of those ‘silly’ boycotts that ‘succeeds’ in doing nothing but detract from the issue at hand.

      As for RW needing a better PR manager – while I definitely agree with you on this point, I’m actually not too sure if this boycott thing was endorsed by him or not, especially keeping in mind that what the HKTV trade union group has been doing seems to be separate from what Ricky Wong has been doing / saying (though could be that he’s separating himself on purpose so as not stir up any further negative sentiment)…

      Also, following this issue as closely as I have, I’ve noticed through reading of various things on Weibo, Facebook, Internet in general, etc. that it seems like there are several different ‘groups’ (or factions or whatever you want to call it) with several different ‘goals’ involved and not all of them lead back to the same end result. For example – many of the HKTV artists and behind-the-scenes staff have made it clear on Weibo that their goal with the protests aren’t to force the government to give HKTV a license, but rather to obtain a full explanation from the government on why the license was denied – if the explanation is valid and makes sense, they will accept it. This is important to note because it supports the ‘black box operation’ claim that HKTV and Ricky Wong have been accusing the government of…..however, by the same token, because there have also been a lot of criticism this past week toward HKTV protestors about them ‘crying’ over not getting a license, with some people even saying that the more they try to force the government to give them a license, the more they don’t want them to get a license (which to me is sort of stupid, but that’s just me). The reason I bring this up is because if the core HKTV people’s goal is to get a proper explanation from the govt, then it’s unfair to ‘generalize’ that they are trying to use the ‘mob mentality’ to force the government into giving them a license.

      If I remember correctly, I think this whole TV switchoof campaign thing was first suggested by a netizen and not by HKTV people….but still, they should have just left it at that and not ‘adopt’ that campaign as part of their protest….

  5. Not to mention how unfair the tvb boycott is to the affected tvb cast and crew of the currently airing series and tv programs. (reminder: these people are most if not all HKTV's former colleagues) Why should their series ratings be the colleteral damage in the HKTV's protest against the HK government?