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LCQ16: Generic Code of Practice on Television Advertising Standards

     Following is a question by the Hon Lee Wing-tat and a written reply by the Acting Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development, Mr Gregory So, in the Legislative Council today (December 2):


     According to the information provided by the Broadcasting Authority (BA), an advertisement for the property development "Lake Silver" of a property developer was broadcast in May this year on the television channels of Asia Television Limited, Television Broadcasts Limited, Hong Kong Cable Television Limited and now Broadband TV of PCCW Media Limited respectively. The advertisement was presented in a surrealistic manner using artistic presentation and computer-aided graphics. Graphically, there were shots of natural sceneries like forests and lakes, showing that the property is located in a bay area surrounded by green bushes. BA considered the advertisement untruthful and misleading, and gave an advice to those television stations. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(a) whether it has assessed if the above four television stations have contravened the Generic Code of Practice on Television Advertising Standards; if the assessment result is in the affirmative, whether it knows the justifications for BA to merely give an advice instead of imposing fines or other punitive measures under the law; and

(b) of the number of complaints received by the authorities in the past three years about untruthful and misleading television advertisements; and, among such complaints, the number of those involving advertisements of property developers, the contents of such advertisements and the follow-up actions taken by BA?



     The Broadcasting Authority (BA) is an independent statutory body established under the Broadcasting Authority Ordinance (Cap. 391). It is responsible for the regulation of the broadcasting industry in Hong Kong. To secure broadcasting standards, the BA issues codes of practice which are prepared through a process of open public and industry consultation.

     Hong Kong is committed to upholding the freedom of expression. The BA also adheres to this principle and there is no pre-censorship of broadcasting materials. Complaints made to the BA regarding allegations that a licensee may have contravened the BA's code of practice will be investigated in accordance with the provisions stipulated in the relevant ordinance and the BA's established procedures. In case of a breach of the relevant code of practice, the BA will, having regard to the severity and nature of the breach, the representations submitted by the licensee, and the record of non-compliance of the licensee, decide on the appropriate sanction to be imposed on the concerned licensee, including the issue of advice, request for apology, warning, or financial penalty.

     Turning to the specific questions:

(a) Regarding television advertisements for the property development in question, the BA processed the complaint in accordance with the established procedures. The BA noted that the advertisement mainly featured computer-aided graphics. However, the ending shot of the advertisement showed that the property was surrounded by natural landscape and greenery, which did not show the existence of other property developments in the vicinity. This information was shown in the location plan in the relevant property development information provided by the developer.

     Having regard to the submissions and representations made by the four television stations, the BA considered that as the ending shot of the advertisement displayed a full view of the concerned property, viewers would expect that it was a realistic depiction of the property. As such, the ending shot was misleading, and the four television stations had not exercised reasonable diligence in ascertaining the truthfulness of the advertisement as a whole. The relevant information was available from the relevant property development information provided by the developer, which showed that there were other property developments in the vicinity. The BA therefore decided to advise the television stations which broadcast the advertisement in question to observe more closely the relevant provisions in the Generic Code of Practice on Television Advertising Standards. In making the decision, the BA had duly considered the nature and severity of the breach involved and the licensees' records of non-compliance. The BA announced the decision and published the considerations that led to the decision on this complaint in its press release issued on November 2, 2009.

(b) In the past three years (i.e. from November 1, 2006 to October 30, 2009), the BA processed 3,744 complaint cases, of which 92 cases (or 2.5% of the total number of cases) were related to untruthful and misleading television advertisements. Among these cases, there were four complaint cases in respect of television advertisements related to property developments, including the aforesaid television advertisement. Three were unsubstantiated and no sanctions were imposed.

Ends/Wednesday, December 2, 2009
Issued at HKT 12:37


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