Leung swings TV license decision, documents show

August 28, 2014 10:10
Ricky Wong Wai-kay's (left) HKTV failed to get a free TV license and its lawyer said there was a change in the 'no limit' policy on the number of licenses after Leung Chun-ying took office. Photo: HKEJ

Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying’s opinions could be one reason behind Hong Kong Television Network (HKTV) losing out on a broadcast license.

This is revealed in confidential memorandums of Executive Council meetings last year that were presented at a judicial review of the license award, Ming Pao Daily reported Thursday.

HKTV, whose chairman is Ricky Wong Wai-kay, filed for the review after the government decided to issue licenses only to Fantastic Television and Hong Kong Television Entertainment.

During the hearing of the review on Wednesday, Russell Coleman, the lawyer for HKTV and a former chairman of the Hong Kong Bar Association, presented a memorandum that shows some of the Executive Council members suggested at a meeting in March last year there should be no limit on the number of licenses.

However, Leung said at the end of the meeting that opening the market for competition is not necessarily good for consumers.

Coleman said the government had never intended to put an upper limit on the number of free TV licenses since it began to consider issuance in 1998 but there was a departure in policy in 2012 when Leung became Chief Executive.

Coleman said the Executive Council does own the discretionary power not to follow the Office of the Communications Authority’s suggestion to award HKTV the license but such power should not diverge from the policy.

Another memorandum shows Leung said in an Executive Council meeting in May last year that he agreed with issuing the licenses gradually but the number of new entrants should be limited to two, and not more than the existing two free TV stations, for the sake of public interest. The council finally decided to go with his opinion.

Coleman pointed out that the government’s decision on issuance of licenses is based on four indicators including the applicant’s financial strength, investment in programs, technology capability and capability of program planning and production.

HKTV ranked second in the first three indicators, third in the last one and second overall.

However, Leung said in an Executive Council meeting in October that the last indicator should be given more weight than the other three when evaluating the applicants.

It turned out that HKTV failed to get the license.

The hearing is set to continue today.

-- Contact us at [email protected]