Sunday, December 1, 2013

News Article: TVB's gag on Next Media infringes press freedom

Here's a very interesting editorial written by renown political commentator and radio show host (as well as former businessman and government official) Albert Cheng (鄭經) about the whole TVB vs. Next Media issue.  

I'm sure most people have heard by now that TVB officially 'banned' Next Media (which owns the newspaper Apply Daily as well as tabloid magazines such as Face and Sudden Weekly) due to what TVB claims was 'biased' reporting during the whole HKTV license saga.  The 'ban' basically means that no reporters from any of Next Media's publications are allowed entrance at TVB City and all TVB artists are NOT allowed to do any interviews with any of their publications.

I may have mentioned this elsewhere already, but for those who might not have read 'reaction' when I first heard about the ban was that TVB is damn stupid for making such a move.  Sure, I hate Next Media just like everyone else and to this day, I refuse to buy / support their filthy gossip rags (I rarely even read articles from their magazines because I know most of it is 'rubbish' anyway).  

BUT, with all that said, even I have to admit that, despite its horrible reputation and disgusting lack of ethics (and as much as I would LOVE to see Next Media 'suffer', even if it's in an insignificant way), Next Media is still one of the biggest, all-encompassing Media outlets in HK and trying to 'go against' them is akin to 'committing suicide''s pretty much 'impossible' to stop Next Media, just like it's 'impossible' for any other TV station in HK to try to bring down TVB -- it's a losing battle no matter which way we try to slice it.  This is why I say that TVB is 'damn stupid' for trying to do so because it's pretty much a given that they have way more to lose than Next Media does (and no, it's not just me talking -- 78% of Hong Kongers also feel that TVB has more to lose based on recent polls that were done).  

Given what I stated above, it should come as no surprise then that, after reading the below editorial, I can't help but agree with Albert Cheng in terms of why TVB was 'wrong' in banning Next Media because of the long-term implications that this move has. 

Oh and to those who read the below editorial -- pay careful attention to Albert Cheng's take on why some people are putting partial blame on TVB for HKTV not getting a date, his 'explanation' is the most 'logical' one I've read about the issue (though to set the record straight, this DOES NOT mean that I agree with the 'turn off TV' movement because I also felt that move was lame and stupid...but at least Albert Cheng's explanation makes sense as to why those people who participated in the boycott did what they did...)


TVB's gag on Next Media infringes press freedom

Source:  SCMP

Editorial piece written by Albert Cheng

BIO on Albert Cheng (according to SCMP website): Ir. Albert Cheng is the founder of Digital Broadcasting Corporation Hong Kong Limited, a current affairs commentator and columnist. He was formerly a direct elected Hong Kong SAR Legislative Councillor. Mr Cheng was voted by Time Magazine in 1997 as one of "the 25 most influential people in new Hong Kong" and selected by Business Week in 1998 as one of "the 50 stars of Asia".   

The controversy over the Hong Kong Television Network licensing issue that led to a boycott of TVB's anniversary special last week may have puzzled some people. But, in fact, it was inevitable.

Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying decided not to grant a licence to HKTV, going against the recommendation of the Office of the Communications Authority that all three applicants of a free-to-air TV licence be granted one.

Leung moved the goalposts and chose two out of the three applicants, leaving HKTV out in the cold.

On the surface, the reasons for his decision seem to have been that HKTV doesn't have the financial capability to run a sustainable business, and also that the market cannot accommodate five free-to-air TV stations.

But, obviously, the real reason is that the government prefers TVB to remain dominant in the local TV market. It doesn't want to risk allowing the proactive and innovative management of HKTV to change the game plan. In other words, it doesn't want HKTV to rock the boat.

The other two applicants seem unlikely to compete head-on with TVB. Only Ricky Wong Wai-kay's HKTV had set its sights on challenging TVB's market leadership.

Even before the licence decisions were made, HKTV was already jostling for position and poaching stars and production staff from TVB.

Had HKTV got a licence, it would undoubtedly have posed a threat to TVB and challenged its long-term monopoly.

Not only would that hit TVB's profits, it would also affect its position to act as the mouthpiece for the establishment and Beijing. It would effectively break the propaganda machine for the Hong Kong administration as well as the central government.

At the moment, no other media outlet is capable of challenging the dominance of TVB, including ATV, which has been the underdog for years, despite the fact that it has financial backing.

From the point of view of maintaining the status quo, it's logical that HKTV wasn't awarded a licence.

That's why Hongkongers who are politically alert placed some of the blame on TVB and boycotted the station's anniversary show.

And if the station's senior management had the political intellect to comprehend the seriousness of the matter, they wouldn't have allowed presenter and actor Nat Chan Pak-cheung to act as spokesman and challenge the public, saying that the boycott would be ineffective.

In the end, the loser was TVB, which saw its overall ratings for the show drop below 30 points for the first time in a decade.

The worst thing is that, despite this bitter lesson, TVB's management still failed to learn from their mistakes and shifted the blame to others, such as Next Media, accusing it of bias. TVB then announced it would ban Next Media and its reporters from its press conferences and events.

TVB's action not only goes against the principles of press freedom and freedom of expression, it also infringes the operating principles of a free-to-air TV station. TVB is using public airwaves; hence, it has no right to ban the media from entering its premises to cover the news.

The station is setting a very bad precedent. By volunteering to gag another media organisation, it seems to be doing the government's dirty work without even being asked.

The Nat Chan episode may have seemed like a farce to many people, but I believe it was all meticulously planned, to create a good excuse to target Next Media.

It's just the beginning, because Next Media is only the guinea pig for TVB to see how far this tactic could go in the future.

Strangely, Next Media seems reluctant to retaliate or speak up against this injustice. It has reacted in a rather strange manner, saying that, despite the ban by TVB, it could still get information and report on its performing artists.

The low-key editorial treatment of TVB's ban by Apple Daily editor Cheung Kim-hung has drawn criticism from within the newsroom and its senior management. Apple Daily is part of Next Media.

In fact, the ban by TVB not only concerns Next Media; it sets a dangerous precedent for the entire local media landscape. If we don't protest and fight back, it will slowly erode our freedom of expression and press freedom - both of which are core values that have made Hong Kong what it is today.

As a TV station that uses public airwaves, TVB is using public assets to fight media organisations that it deems unfriendly.

What if other public organisations follow suit and ban unfriendly media?

The people of Hong Kong must put aside whatever negative sentiment they have about Next Media, because this is not about that organisation; it is a "life and death" situation for our future media landscape.

Albert Cheng King-hon is a political commentator.


  1. Agree TVB is pretty much doing the gov's dirty work even with out them asking. If they succeed the same thing can be repeated for other media outlets and the freedom of press will certainly be in ruins. Which is what the China gov wants control over media.

    I have a question do you know who owns OnTV? At some point I heard it was EEG's boss but not sure.

    1. In conclusion HK's crumbling under China's control is becoming ever more apparent after the tv license dispute. I remember Ricky Wong said he'll do some risky things, still not sure what those are. I just hope his plans will allow his quality series to see the light of day very very soon and garner him loads of revenue. Just cause HKTV can't air on free television doesn't mean their production won't take away audience from TVB's station. If people can watch their production online "legally" it will still pose a threat. Because nowadays even 50+ year olds are watching shows on iPads.


    2. @sport3888: Yup…see, the part about TVB doing the government’s ‘dirty work’ is the piece that most people don’t realize. It was already obvious that they’re doing the govt’s work from that special episode of The Scoop that TVB aired where they pretty much reiterated the government’s position almost verbatim (read through that 6 page so-called ‘explanation’ that the government released and then watch that particular episode of The Scoop – you will probably find that both look eerily similar…). I mean, TVB even came right out and said during the program that the government was ‘right’ in issuing licenses to i-Cable and NowTV but not to HKTV, which totally CONTRADICTS their previous position that the government shouldn’t be issuing ANY new licenses period. I don’t know about you guys, but I find it weird that TVB is suddenly changing their position now when they were so adamant about their previous position prior to the license decision.

      Yes, I know that I might be labeled as a ‘conspiracy theorist’ when I say this, but I would prefer to go with Albert Cheng’s opinion on the matter than the Media’s or general public’s because of his background and the fact that he went through similar ‘treatment’ that Ricky Wong did (keep in mind that Albert used to be a government official too who has knowledge of the inner workings of the government, so if they – meaning the HK and Central govt -- were able to do what they did to him, imagine what they would do to an ordinary citizen who has no connections or knowledge of govt)….

    3. @sport3888: Well, I honestly feel that if he’s pushed to the edge, Ricky Wong definitely has the capability to do something ‘drastic’ and ‘risky’ – he has actually built up quite a reputation over the years and I don’t doubt for a minute that he is capable of doing some real damage if he’s forced to. This is why I’ve said from the beginning (and those who don’t believe me can go back and read my previous posts) that even though I respect what Ricky Wong has done for the HK television industry, I still have ‘reservations’ about him as a person – a sentiment that was made even stronger the last couple months after seeing his reaction to the license decision. Whatever the case, I highly doubt that this will be the end of the ‘saga’ – I’m sure that this issue will undoubtedly have a more far-reaching impact than most people are willing to believe….

  2. Something more interesting broke out today. TVB had actually obtained trademarks approval to use HKTV words in both English and Chinese along with the TVB logo. This is silly! HKTV is planning to take legal advice on this.

    1. Err...why they want to use it?


    2. @Anonymous: Interesting that you mention about that….it’s actually kind of ‘old news’ because that info came out last week or so (but didn’t really get reported on until now). I was actually planning to do one of my ‘TVB Rant’ posts on that subject, but wanted to hold off until I got the chance to ‘vet’ the information more to see if it’s legit or not.

      Of course, if that’s what TVB truly did, then shame on them! By taking such ‘childish’ action, all this does is reinforce in people’s mind that TVB is a big bad bully who has no tolerance for people who disobey them. TVB people keep saying how ‘good’ their company is and how much ‘heart’ they have – well, if that’s the case, why would they (meaning TVB) step on people (HKTV and its artists) when they are down like they’re doing now with this trademark thing?

      Anyway, since I’ll be writing a post on this, not going to comment too much at this point…..

    3. @fangorn: They don’t….TVB doesn’t give a crap about the name – they’re just doing it in an attempt to ‘kill’ all possibility of Ricky Wong making a ‘comeback’ with the HKTV brand. Otherwise, why else would TVB take the action of ‘trademarking’ that name now at such a sensitive time when they already ‘abandoned’ that name decades ago (it’s been at least 20 years if not more that they stopped using that name). To be honest, THAT’s the part that doesn’t sit well with me – it just makes TVB look petty (not that they didn’t already look petty to begin with but this makes them look 100 times worse) and also reinforces people’s image of them as being a ‘bully’.

  3. "Next Media is still one of the biggest, all-encompassing Media outlets in HK" -- how did that come about? Because of Hong Kongers' insatiable appetite for outrageous and scintillating stories, especially romantic scandals and rumors, even though the stories are so obviously fabricated and ridiculous. Worse, the rumors may eventually over time become facts to some.

    1. @tamaya: Totally agree! Thanks for making that very important point because at the end of the day, that’s really the main reason why TVB’s boycott of Next Media isn’t going to have much impact. As long as there are Hong Kongers out there with an ‘insatiable appetite for outrageous stories’ and therefore are more than willing to continue buying Next Media’s products (especially the gossip mags), the Next Media empire is going to continue to thrive. As many people already mentioned, even with the boycott, Next reporters can still continue to write up ‘scintillating’ stories about TVB artists – they’ve never needed ‘permission’ from TVB in the past and still don’t need it even now….as long as the pen is still in the reporters’ hands and the general public still buys the magazines, they will continue to do what they do. It has gotten to the point that pretty much the ONLY way to ‘stop’ Next Media is to have everyone in HK stop buying their magazines, which we of course know is impossible. With a company such as Next Media that doesn’t care about ethics or morals, the only way to make an impact is through the pocketbook….

      Also, I brought up this point in AF but forgot to post it here: many years ago, the entire HK entertainment industry (including most of the industry’s ‘big name’ artists) gathered together to ‘boycott’ Next Media, yet that didn’t make as much as a dent in curbing Next Media’s unethical tactics and false stories (in fact, their tactics have gotten worse since then and their stories have gotten more and more outrageous). Let’s think about it for a moment – if so many industry ‘heavyweights’ (artists way more ‘influential’ in HK than the current TVB folks) weren’t able to make an impact on Next Media, I highly doubt that TVB will.

    娛樂審死官: 無道德,狗仔隊應消失

    According to this 狗仔 guest, the origin of the doggie troop came about as a counter attack by Apple Daily to combat the boycott of media by HK big name artists. Apple Daily hired a big group of paparazzi reporters to especially dog the celebrities 24/7. Apple's thinking - no interviews, fine, Apple we would set our doggies to tail these celebrities 24/7 day in day out, taking stealthy photos of them to create negative press on them. These doggies with their telephoto lenses truly put the fear in them. So one by one these celebrities caved in to these ever present 'wan san.' @3:11