25 August 2019
Robert Chow Yung (inset), a spokesman for the 'blue ribbon' crowd who opposed the 'yellow umbrella' movement, will start a pro-Beijing website on May 5 but may find it hard to attract readers. Photo: HKEJ
Robert Chow Yung (inset), a spokesman for the 'blue ribbon' crowd who opposed the 'yellow umbrella' movement, will start a pro-Beijing website on May 5 but may find it hard to attract readers. Photo: HKEJ

Are there enough readers for more pro-establishment websites?

A new pro-establishment website founded by former RTHK host Robert Chow Yung will debut on May 5, just in time to join the second phase of the debate on universal suffrage.

The website will be called HKG, an airline destination code for Hong Kong, which could also mean “Hong Kong Good” or “Hong Kong Great”, said Chow, a spokesman for the Alliance for Peace and Democracy, a pro-Beijing group that loudly opposed the Occupy Central movement last year.

HKG aims to be an independent media outlet that speaks for Hong Kong interests with positive energy, Sing Tao Daily reported.

With fewer than 10 staff, it plans to carry 20 to 30 online commentaries on current affairs.

Interestingly, it seems to be a mirror image of, a boutique political and current affairs news website found by former Hong Kong Economic Journal deputy chief editor Yuen Yiu-ching.

Yuen has a clear pro-democracy stance and often runs sharp and sarcastic commentaries against the government.

HKG is not the only emerging media outlet apparently aimed at counterbalancing radical voices in a quest for harmony in our divided society.

Speak Out HK, founded by Cheung Chi-kong, who is a non-official member of the Executive Council, is aimed at supporters of the establishment, providing them with articles that either praise Beijing and the Hong Kong police or belittle Hongkongers and westerners.

Earlier this month, a consortium headed by David Chiu Tat-cheong, son of former Asia Television Ltd. shareholder Deacon Chiu Te-ken, declared its interest in bidding for a free-to-air television license in the city after the forced departure of ATV from the market.

Chiu formed Forever Top with Pansy Ho Chiu-king, daughter of Macau casino king Stanley Ho Hung-sun and managing director of Shun Tak Holdings Ltd. (00242.HK), Guangzhou R&F Properties (02777.HK) chairman Li Sze-lim and a private equity arm of Lenovo Group Ltd. (00992.HK) founder Liu Chuanzhi.

This new TV consortium will be a challenger to Ricky Wong Wai-kay’s HKTV, which won a court ruling last week in favour of its quest for a license. 

Now the problem is: Are there enough readers for more pro-establishment websites? 

No one can deny that it is a hard job to sell Beijing’s propaganda to the younger generation online these days.

Also, members of the “blue ribbon” crowd are less likely to go online, as many of them are elderly people.

However, Beijing and its followers seem not to be bothered. As long as they have the budget, they will sponsor or create more pro-Beijing media.

Therefore, for every fresh media outlet, a balancing force friendly to the government seems to emerge, to mitigate the potential damaging impact on social harmony.

After Jimmy Lai Chee-ying, founder of Next Media Ltd. (00282.HK) and thorn in officialdom’s side, launched Next Magazine, Sing Tao News Corp. (01105.HK) founder Charles Ho Tsu Kwok’s East Magazine came into being to compete for advertising and for editorial talent.

In the new media sphere, Tony Tsoi Tung-ho founded pro-democracy website House News in August 2012.

A year later, Sing Tao and its former chief executive, Lo Wing-hung, founded Bastille Post to contest for online dominance. Lo adopted the approach of feeding weird China news and hot girl videos on Facebook to attract eyeballs while conveying anti-Occupy and pro-government messages in other articles. 

Although House News was closed before the Occupy Central movement, it resurrected as Stand News soon after the movement ended.

Immediately, another pro-Beijing website called Orange News was set up by Sino United Publishing (Holdings) Ltd. to promote the message that Hong Kong should pocket Beijing’s electoral reform proposal first.

Likewise, Shenzhen property developer and Hong Kong businessman Bill Wong Cho-biu bought out Albert Cheng King-hon’s stake in Digital Broadcasting Corp. (DBC) in 2012.

Cheng then founded pro-democracy online radio station D100. Both DBC and D100 remain niche players in the media.

The battle for social harmony in the media goes on and will probably not stop before the Legislative Council elections next year. 

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EJ Insight writer

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