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 it....my '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'...it'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 license...to 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
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.