15 September 2019
The entry of Chinese state-backed media veteran Li Ruigang (inset) into TVB's investor group could pose a threat to the station's independence, some Hong Kong lawmakers say. Photo: HKEJ
The entry of Chinese state-backed media veteran Li Ruigang (inset) into TVB's investor group could pose a threat to the station's independence, some Hong Kong lawmakers say. Photo: HKEJ

Lawmakers concerned over TVB move to bring in mainland investor

Lawmakers have expressed concern over the move of the controlling shareholder of Television Broadcasts Ltd. (TVB, 00511.HK), Hong Kong’s top television broadcaster, to bring in a mainland partner.

The entry of Li Ruigang, a Chinese state-backed media veteran, into TVB’s controlling shareholding group will spark worries that the station could slant its news coverage to please Beijing, Civic Party lawmaker Claudia Mo said, according to the Hong Kong Economic Journal.

Charles Mok, a lawmaker representing the information technology functional constituency, said TVB seems be going the same way as its rival ATV, which is known to be a Beijing sympathizer.

He pointed out that mainland investor Wong Ching bypassed Hong Kong regulations, which forbid non-Hong Kong people from owning local TV stations, when he bought controlling stake in ATV. Eventually, Wong ran the station to ground by failing to provide high-quality services, Mok noted. 

Earlier this month, the Hong Kong government announced that it will not renew ATV’s broadcast license. The move, which came amid the station’s financial troubles, will result in ATV shutting its operations by early April next year.

Now, coming back to TVB, the introduction of a mainland investor may cause a big change in Hong Kong’s media industry, said Lee Chin-chuan, Chair Professor of the Department of Media and Communication at the City University of Hong Kong.

After ATV brought in a mainland boss, the station has become somewhat akin to Central China Television, Lee noted, expressing concern that TVB too could suffer the same fate.

The quality of TVB news is declining… hope its self-censorship problem will not further intensify,” he said. 

Young Lion Holdings Ltd., the controlling shareholder of TVB, announced on Wednesday that it will sell some stake to Li, chairman of China Media Capital (CMC), which is a unit of the State-owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission of the State Council, China’s cabinet.

It did not disclose the transaction value or details of the shareholding structure but said Young Lion will continue to be controlled by TVB chairman Charles Chan Kwok-keung and that it will see its stake remain unchanged at 26 percent after the deal. 

Young Lion was co-founded by Chan, Taiwan HTC chairwoman Cher Wang and private-equity firm Providence Equity in 2011. It acquired the controlling stake in TVB from Shaw Brothers Studio.

The introduction of Li to the TV station’s holding company has been approved by Hong Kong’s Communications Authority. Authorities seem to think that the new investor could take the local TV broadcasting market to another stage.

Li had served as municipal deputy secretary general of the Shanghai government. 

He told the Hong Kong Economic Journal that he was invited by Chan, and that his investment reflects his upbeat outlook on TVB’s prospects.

CMC had previously established Television Broadcasts China (TVBC) with TVB in 2012. 

Li is now expected to contribute to TVB’s strategy and direction, rather than day-to-day operations, sources were quoted as saying.

Translation by Vey Wong

[Chinese version中文版]

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