Asia Television Ltd. (ATV) has been accused of manipulating the news after its news department reported that the cash-strapped television station had struck a deal with a new investor.
Industry players urged the Securities and Futures Commission (SFC) to launch an investigation after ATV reported in its 6 p.m. news broadcast on Tuesday that its majority shareholder Wong Ben-koon and investor Wong Ching (also known as Wang Zheng) have accepted an offer from Ricky Wong, chairman of Hong Kong Television Network Limited (HKTV, 1137.HK), on the acquisition of ATV shares, Metro Daily reported.
The report came a day before the Executive Council was to meet to decide ATV’s fate. The government later rejected the station’s application to renew its free-to-air license.
HKTV issued an announcement on Wednesday morning denying that it had reached an agreement with ATV. The news prompted HKTV’s share price to surge considerably.
HKTV’s statement did confirm that Ricky Wong held a meeting with Wong Ching on March 26 and the pair discussed ATV’s operations and the possible extension of ATV’s broadcast license.
The Communications Authority has received at least 27 complaints regarding ATV’s “false and misleading” news report.
The Hong Kong Journalists Association slammed the ATV shareholders for releasing misleading information to the public.
Former commerce secretary Frederick Ma said the SFC should investigate who provided the story to ATV’s news department and if there was a case of insider dealing since it involved a listed company.
Clement So, a professor at the of Hong Kong, said the incident will further hurt ATV’s credibility, noting that the broadcaster also falsely reported in 2011 the death of former Chinese president Jiang Zemin.
Legislator Claudia Mo, a journalist, said the ATV report about the share transfer was “the biggest April Fool’s story I have seen during my 30-year career”.
ATV executive director Yip Ka-bo denied that there was news manipulation, noting that “the news report did not say that the transfer deal was completed”.
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