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LCQ6: Operation of Asia Television Limited

     Following is a question by the Hon Frederick Fung Kin-kee and a reply by the Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development, Mrs Rita Lau, in the Legislative Council today (May 12):


     It has been reported that recently a mainland businessman had announced in a high profile manner his equity acquisition in Asia Television Limited (ATV), claiming that he would turn ATV into Asia's CNN and launch a nation-wide putonghua channel; and that the Broadcasting Authority (BA) had written to ATV for clarifications. It has also been reported that the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of ATV had indicated that the businessman had, prior to obtaining BA's approval for his equity acquisition, participated in ATV's daily operation, interfered with ATV's business, bypassed the CEO's duties and dismissed staff arbitrarily through his trusted confidant, and during the time, incidents such as ATV's equity dispute and an application being filed for its liquidation also occurred. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council whether:

(a) it knows the latest changes in ATV's management as well as the latest operation of ATV, and whether there is any discrepancy between that situation and the aforesaid situation; whether it has reviewed if the occurrence of the aforesaid situation reflects inadequacies and limitations of the existing Broadcasting Ordinance and BA's monitoring functions, which render BA unable to simultaneously and effectively monitor changes in the shareholding structure and operation of domestic free television (TV) programme services provided by the licensees;

(b) it has followed up and fully investigated the aforesaid allegations made by the CEO of ATV, so as to ascertain if the person concerned has violated the Broadcasting Ordinance and interfered with editorial autonomy; if it has followed up, of the details, including whether the law has been breached and penalty is imposed as a result; if it has not followed up, the reasons for that; and

(c) it has assessed how the aforesaid ATV's situation will affect the mid-term review of the domestic free TV programme service licences to be conducted by the authorities; whether the authorities have formulated any contingency plan to avoid members of the public being unable to continue to watch free TV programmes provided by a free TV station in the event that the TV station has seriously violated the law or goes into liquidation; if they have, of the details; if they have not, the reasons for that?



     Before responding to the specific questions raised by the Honourable Frederick Fung, I would like to briefly explain the current statutory requirements for regulating domestic free television programme service licensees. The Asia Television Limited (ATV) is one of the two domestic free television programme service licensees in Hong Kong. ATV is subject to the requirements under the Broadcasting Ordinance (BO) and the conditions stipulated in its licence. These include the need to apply to the Broadcasting Authority (BA) for approval in respect of changes in shareholding structure, to notify the BA of any change in directors or principal officers, and to ensure that the directors and principal officers are fit and proper persons and in compliance with the residence requirements stipulated under the BO. ATV is also required to ensure that its service is primarily targeting Hong Kong.

     I will now address the specific questions -

     ATV has kept the BA informed of changes in its directors and principal officers. As a licensee, ATV is fully aware of the statutory requirements and its responsibilities. Hitherto, the BA has not received any application for changes in ATV's shareholding structure. From daily monitoring by the BA, ATV's operation remains normal. As regards the application for ATV's liquidation, we understand that the applicant has withdrawn the application from the court. The BA did earlier receive information about queries on ATV's operation. The BA has made enquiries to ATV accordingly to seek information for further understanding the latest operating conditions of ATV.

     As regards the mid-term review of the domestic free television programme service licence held by ATV, the BA is currently conducting the review. After the completion of the review, the BA will submit its review report and recommendations to the Chief Executive in Council.

     The BO has provided for penalties against a licensee which contravenes the regulatory requirements. In the event of serious contravention, the licence may be suspended or revoked. The BA has to deal with contravention of regulatory requirements in accordance with its established procedures, and exercise its powers under the BO accordingly. Based on information obtained, the BA will consider and decide whether further action should be taken. At this stage, it would not be appropriate for us to comment on whether ATV has contravened any regulatory requirements.

Ends/Wednesday, May 12, 2010
Issued at HKT 16:33


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