Viewers furious as TVB uses simplified Chinese in subtitles

February 24, 2016 14:28
Simplified Chinese subtitles in a TVB program (inset) have drawn the ire of more than 10,000 viewers. Photos: HKEJ, Facebook

The Communications Authority has received about 10,000 complaints from viewers furious about Television Broadcasts Ltd. (00511.HK) starting to use simplified Chinese in subtitles for news programs on its J5 channel.

TVB, the city’s dominant free-to-air station, started Monday to offer a 45-minute prime-time news and information program in Putonghua with simplified Chinese characters for the subtitles.

Regulations for the domestic free TV program service license require all newscasts, weather reports and current-affairs programs aired by the broadcaster to provide Chinese or English subtitles, Apple Daily reported Wednesday.

However, the license did not specify how the subtitles are presented, it quoted a representative of the authority as saying.

TVB defended its decision, saying the new arrangement will offer viewers more choices and better serve the needs of different audiences.

Hong Kong Baptist University's student union condemned TVB for attempting to please mainland China and urged the station to reverse the change.

Civic Party lawmaker Claudia Mo Man-ching and the party's candidate in the upcoming Legislative Council by-election, Alvin Yeung Ngok-kiu, protested outside TVB's headquarters in Tseung Kwan O.

Mo said TVB has the responsibility to protect the interests of the public.

She said she is worried traditional Chinese characters will follow the path of the Uyghur language and the Tibetan language, both of which are fading away.

Meanwhile, the People’s Daily, the mouthpiece of the Chinese Communist Party, published an article arguing there is no conflict between simplified Chinese and traditional Chinese, so people should not politicize the issue.

The Beijing-based newspaper criticized radicals in the city for encouraging a sense of cultural superiority on this issue, which it said is too shallow and naïve.

It said that if we must appeal to history, we might as well revive ancient Chinese writing systems such as seal characters and the oracle bones script.

Well-known Hong Kong novelist Ni Kuang called on TVB viewers to avoid watching the broadcaster's programs if they use simplified Chinese subtitles.

However, Ivan Choy Chi-keung, a political commentator and senior lecturer at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, said there is now only one TVB program that uses simplified Chinese subtitles, so Hongkongers should not criticize the broadcaster too much, as they live in a diverse city.

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