TVB responds to talk of ad withdrawals over protests coverage

July 11, 2019 17:48
TVB has been criticized by many young Hong Kong activists over the TV station’s perceived pro-establishment bias during its coverage of the anti-extradition bill protests. Photo: HKEJ

Television Broadcasts Ltd, Hong Kong's largest free-to-air TV station, said on Wednesday that “a small number” of advertisers have decided to "defer" their campaigns or "reschedule" ad bookings with the broadcaster.

The advertisers took the decisions in view of the "recent economic and political incidents” in Hong Kong, a spokesman said, stressing that such moves were having "no significant effect" on TVB's business.

The company did not reveal any names, but there is talk that one of the entities that pulled ads was sports drink brand Pocari Sweat, which is owned by Japan's Otsuka Pharmaceutical Co, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports.

The withdrawal of the ads, it is believed, had something to do with the TV station's coverage of the anti-extradition bill protests that rocked Hong Kong in recent weeks.

Accusing TVB of a pro-Beijing bias, a number of young Hong Kong netizens had called for a boycott of the private broadcaster, and for advertisers to stay away from its TV channels.

Messages were circulated on social media that brands that continue to support TVB should be shunned by the public.

Apparently, the warnings were taken seriously enough by some advertisers, especially youth-oriented brands, to postpone or cancel their ad campaigns.

Pocari Sweat was one such entity, it is suspected. 

A Facebook messenger text doing the rounds in online forums shows a purported exchange on July 9 between Pocari Sweat Hong Kong and a netizen, wherein the Japanese sport drink brand writes that “in view of the current situation, we have made a decision to withdraw the advertisements placement from TVB broadcast stations...".

At around 8 pm Wednesday, Otsuka Pharmaceutical (H.K.) Ltd. released a statement on the Facebook platform of Pocari Sweat Hong Kong in which it said that it always tries its best to "support the health of people from all over the world” and that it apologizes for any inconvenience for the July 9 online message doing the rounds on the internet.

HKEJ tried to get more information from the company on the matter, but was yet to get a response from the firm as of print deadline on Wednesday.

A TVB spokesman, meanwhile, insisted that the TV station always maintains neutrality, professionalism and objectivity in its news coverage.

The recent events in Hong Kong were covered objectively and viewers were presented with accurate and impartial information, the spokesman said.

China's Communist Party mouthpiece Global Times reported on Wednesday that TVB may have been targeted because it stood up for Hong Kong's police during the recent incidents involving extradition bill protesters.

Former Hong Kong chief executive Leung Chun-ying, who is currently a vice-chairman of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, China’s top political advisory body, criticized Pocari Sweat in a Facebook post.

Accusing the Japanese sports drink firm of not being able to tell right from wrong, Leung suggested that Chinese consumers should boycott the brand.

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