Thursday, November 7, 2013

Latest update on Free TV License Issue: Special Powers Motion Gets Defeated

I’m sure everyone already heard by now, but just to close the loop on this issue (for now), here are the latest articles from SCMP summarizing yesterday’s Legislative Council meeting.

Also, based on other articles I’ve read about the issue (in Chinese news sources), looks like now we know for sure that the Central government in Beijing had a hand in the license decision.  After the Legco special powers motion was defeated yesterday, a few legislators admitted to being contacted by people from the Central government on Wednesday (prior to the voting on Thursday) wanting to ‘discuss’ their thoughts on the issue (which, reading between the lines, meant that the Central government was trying to influence their vote and sway them to vote in favor of the government).  Some lawmakers stood firm in their vote (one lawmaker said he still voted for the motion despite being contacted) while others changed their votes last minute.  

Also, there was a group of several hundred pro-government protesters present at Wednesday’s rally in front of government headquarters (keep in mind that in the week long protests that HKTV supporters had a few weeks ago, not once did they encounter such a huge group of opposition).  These protesters all wore yellow shirts and held up red signs with Central government’s logo on it – they were heckling the HKTV supporters there and calling anyone who supported the motion a ‘traitor’.  The situation almost got out of hand too, as this group kept shouting insults at those present, most likely in the hopes of instigating some sort of fight – they were partially ‘successful’ in that they got some people engaged in shouting matches with them, but luckily the police stepped in to put a stop to things before they escalated further.

When Commerce Secretary Gregory So was asked about the above, especially the fact that several legislators admitted to being contacted by Central government, Mr. So dodged the question and would only vaguely answer that he’s ‘just trying to do his job’.

Also, one of the lawmakers who admitted to being contacted by Central government (architectural sector lawmaker Paul Tse, who is mentioned in the below article -- though they got his name wrong) said on a radio show later that night that HK people need to face reality when it comes to government -- he said that there are many people out there who think that CY Leung always does his own thing and makes brash decisions on his own, but in reality, he actually doesn’t have much power (he wouldn’t say it directly, but he’s basically implying that CY Leung is being controlled by the Mainland government – honestly though, he might as well come out and say it because it’s not like we don’t already know – the majority sentiment out there is that CY Leung is a ‘puppet’ of the Mainland government).

Anyway…so what is the next step?  Most likely judicial long this issue will drag out in the judiciary system, no one knows….however, one thing is absolutely certain:  until this issue gets resolved, both of the free TV licenses that were issued to NowTV and i-Cable will continue to be ‘on hold’.  In other words, we are pretty much back to being ‘status quo’ where free TV is concerned:  TVB will continue to enjoy its monopoly while ATV will continue to be, well, the best way to put it – an embarrassment to the TV industry.

Article 1:  

Legco bid for HKTV licence probe defeated

A bid to launch a special Legislative Council investigation into the HKTV licence row was defeated in the Legislative Council on Thursday.

The vote came after 12 hours of debate by lawmakers and a protest outside the Legco building on Wednesday night that saw thousands of people voice their support for an investigation.

The bid to investigate came after weeks of heated debate on why HKTV's application for a free-to-air TV licence was not approved while those of iCable's Fantastic Television and PCCW's Hong Kong Television Entertainment Company were.

The failed investigation bid disappointed the approximately 400 protesters, including HKTV staff and their supporters,  watching the debate and vote outside the Legco building via a live TV broadcast on Thursday.

Article 2:

Government looks set to defeat motion calling for TV licence probe

Source:  SCMP

A bid to launch a special Legislative Council investigation into television licence row faces defeat today after a group of wavering lawmakers last night decided to vote with the government against a pan-democrat motion.

As thousands opposed to the controversial government decision to refuse Ricky Wong Wai-kay's Hong Kong Television a free-to-air television licence protested outside government headquarters, the momentum inside the Legco chamber swung towards the government.

Hours of debate ended without a vote, but barring a remarkable numerical turnaround, the motion to invoke Legco's special investigative powers and spark an investigation into the decision will fail today - and the battle will move to the courts.

Last night's drama followed dissatisfaction at Tuesday's attempt by the government to explain its decision to grant licences only to PCCW's Hong Kong Television Entertainment Company and iCable's Fantastic Television.

It said concerns over "the dilution of advertising revenue" in an overcrowded free-to-air market gave it reason to limit the number of licences granted.

Earlier yesterday, the attempt to force the government to reveal the reasons behind its decision by invoking the powers and privileges ordinance was three votes short in the 35-member functional constituency, after industrial lawmaker Lam Tai-fai decided to vote for the motion.

By last night, three non-affiliated functional lawmakers - Chan Kin-por, Poon Siu-ping and Tony Tse Wai-chuen - were still wavering but the eight votes in from the Business Professional Alliance grouping look to have swung it for the government.

Cultural lawmaker Ma Fung-kwok, who expressed discontent at the government's handling of the row, said: "There is a strong voice in the industry urging me to vote for the motion, but this is against my beliefs.

Resorting to the court for a judicial review is a better option to corner the government," he said.

Amid frantic pre-vote lobbying, the government deployed about 20 officials at the Commerce and Economic Development Bureau to ensure enough votes to veto the motion.

The pro-establishment camp expressed disappointment towards government despite most of them opposing the motion.

Andrew Leung Kwan-yuen, leader of Business and Professionals Alliance, said the TV licence row would harm the government's ability to implement future policies.

"We really hope the government can learn from its mistakes," said Leung. "They should listen to the people ... the public deserve a choice and there's a wide consensus that the current TV programmes are awful."

Separately, Executive Council convenor Lam Woon-kwong yesterday said it would be best to leave the case to the judiciary.

"The court, as an institution with high credibility, could then review if the government's arguments and procedures in granting licences are reasonable," he said, adding this would be fairer to all parties involved.

Meanwhile, private citizen Lee Yeung-kwong has sought a judicial review of the government's decision - the second such court challenge mounted by a private citizen in as many days.


  1. *sigh. basically back to square one.
    I knew that that the motion would get defeated, so I didn't have much high hopes...
    the state of HK government is so bad that I'm just so tired reading about all the news.
    I wonder what HKTV will do with their dramas they already filmed...

    1. @huama: Yup, unfortunately, we're pretty much back to square one -- which means that things will remain 'status quo' for many more years to come...especially since we already know that the 2 new stations won't be much 'threat' to the current stations due to the different direction they are taking in terms of content -- plus neither free channel will be able to start 'operating' anyway, since all the lawsuits against the government will undoubtedly delay things for at least another year if not more. *sigh*