In response to media enquiries about the free television (TV) licence applications, a spokesman for the Commerce and Economic Development Bureau said today (October 20):
"The Government was notified four days ago of the filing of an application for leave to apply for judicial review. In view of the ongoing legal proceedings, it is not appropriate for us to make public the details, lest affecting the conduct of the legal proceedings concerned.
Secondly, the system requires that the decision regarding free TV licence applications be made by the Chief Executive (CE) in Council. According to the system, the discussion content of the Executive Council meetings is not made public. There should be no exception with regard to the discussion of the free TV licence applications this time.
Thirdly, the discussion content and the reasoning leading to the decision involve commercially sensitive information or even commercial secrets of the three applicants. The release of such information may cause damage to the three applicants, and may even lead to legal dispute.
It is obvious that the Government's aim was to introduce competition while at the same time ensure a healthy and orderly development of the market when it decided to grant approval-in-principle (AIP) to two additional free TV licence applications. There is no question of protecting existing interest. Neither is there any political consideration. The Government also considered that it would not be favourable to the healthy and orderly development of the market if AIP was to be granted to the three TV licence applications.
The Government had to process each licence application in accordance with statutory requirements and established procedures so as to ensure a healthy and orderly development of the market.
Before a decision was made, the applicants had been informed of the Government's inclination to adopt the gradual and orderly approach in introducing competition into the free TV market and the assessment criteria. The applicants had also been invited to make representations on these matters, the consultant's relevant assessments as well as other relevant issues.
The Government has recently on several occasions publicly explained the assessment criteria and the reasoning leading to the decision. These include the free TV licence applications submitted; the former Broadcasting Authority's (the Authority's) recommendations; the consultant's reports; the applicable statutory requirements under the Broadcasting Ordinance; the assessment criteria in the Authority's 'Guidance Note for Those Interested in Applying for Domestic Free Television Programme Service Licences in Hong Kong'; all relevant documents, all representations and responses received in relation to the free TV licence applications and as submitted to the CE in Council; all public views received; all relevant latest developments; the Government's prevailing broadcasting policy; sustainability of the free TV market in the broad sense of the impact of the grant of additional free TV licences; and public interest.
Under the gradual and orderly approach in introducing competition into the free TV market, the CE in Council has assessed the three applications against various assessment criteria. These include financial capability, the programming investment, programming strategy and capability and technical soundness of the proposed service.
In carrying out the assessment, the CE in Council had considered all relevant factors including many rounds of representations from the concerned organisations."
Ends/Sunday, October 20, 2013
Issued at HKT 16:36