18 February 2019
ATV, Oriental Press Group and SCMP are all set for some key developments and changes. Photos: HKEJ, RTHK
ATV, Oriental Press Group and SCMP are all set for some key developments and changes. Photos: HKEJ, RTHK

Look at the bright side of the Tai Po media drama

It is perhaps only a coincidence that big changes are taking place at the same time at all the media firms in Tai Po Industrial Estate.

Asia Television (ATV) is set to halt operations, ending a run of nearly six decades. South China Morning Post will soon have a new owner. And Oriental Press Group will suspend publication of The Sun, the city’s third-best selling newspaper, from April 1.

The three long-standing Tai Po tenants will suffer a setback in scale, but that does not mean they cannot be reborn following a baptism of fire.

We all know how difficult it is to run a print business in Hong Kong nowadays, given the migration of readers to digital platforms.

Even gossip magazines have begun to discover that their future is not assured despite their magical paparazzi teams.

Declining ad revenues have led to closures of many titles in the recent past.

Hong Kong Daily News (新報) called it quits in July last year after a 56-year run. Later, Next Media Group closed its once-most-profitable gossip and entertainment magazine Sudden Weekly (忽然1周).

And the same group, in the most recent move, has decided to shutter Face, another long-running young magazine.

For Oriental Press Group, the decision to suspend The Sun, which started publishing in March 1999, came due to a “deteriorating business environment” in Hong Kong, according to an announcement.

But interestingly, the company hasn’t ruled out the possibility of reviving the title “if the economy and the business environment improve in the future”.

In other words, the Sun may shine again after the cold winter, which is not too bad after all.

Ditto for Asia Television, whose tragic drama has been going on for over a year with disgruntled shareholders and unhappy and unpaid staff.

As the station’s free-to-air TV license will expire on April 1, ATV may not turn off the lights completely in its Tai Po headquarters. Apparently the station is seeking a new chapter by offering over-the-top (OTT) content service, primarily in China.

Given the empty promises we have seen in the past year, we have no idea how popular the service would become.

But we would believe that China Trends, a growth enterprise market-listed firm that is emerging as a major creditor to ATV, would be anxious to explore various options.

That comes as the creditor is facing difficulty in relation to claims on the ATV brand, its program library and even the use of the company premises, the valuation of which is estimated to be over HK$315 million in total.

In the meantime, we’ll also be watching SCMP, which will soon remove the paywall for its website after Alibaba Group officially takes over.

Last week, Alibaba’s Executive Vice-Chairman Joseph Tsai promised SCMP staff that he will create a new environment that will allow the newspaper’s employees to come to work happy every day.

If his words are to be taken seriously, there will at least be some new life in the local media.

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EJ Insight writer

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