Mingpao: Is HK still the HK we knew? 王維基的遭遇 使許多人對香港陌生起來

Is HK still the HK we knew? 王維基的遭遇 使許多人對香港陌生起來
Translated and Written by Ming Pao

【明報專訊】HONG KONG TELEVISION NETWORK (HKTV) chairman Ricky Wong, a man who never gives up easily, said he had "come to a dead end" after his company had been informed by the Communications Authority that, if it wanted to provide TV programmes for an audience of more than 5,000 households with known addresses, it must have a free-to-air or pay-TV licence, or it might violate the Broadcasting Ordinance.


Wong's plans to start his TV business have suffered one setback after another. Last year, the government came to a decision regarding the award of new free-to-air TV licences. While HKTV had allocated more resources to its projects and was better prepared than the other applicants, the government rejected its application and refused to explain the decision. HKTV then acquired from a subsidiary of China Mobile its mobile-TV licence, which was generally regarded as a new breath of life for the company. However, shortly afterwards, China Mobile announced that it was conducting an internal inquiry into the deal between its subsidiary and HKTV, giving rise to doubts as to the validity of HKTV's acquisition of the mobile-TV licence. And then Television Broadcasts (TVB) declared that, with effect from July 6, it would terminate an agreement to lease to HKTV six hilltop transmission stations. As a result, HKTV's plan to launch mobile-TV services on July 1 became even more uncertain.


And now HKTV is faced with a regulation problem. According to the Communications Authority, it has given a "friendly reminder" to HKTV saying that if the company's transmission system enables it to provide instantaneously mobile-TV services for an audience of more than 5,000 households with known addresses, it must first of all possess a free-to-air or pay-TV licence. It is true that the Broadcasting Ordinance says a company must have a TV licence if it wants to provide TV services for "an audience of more than 5,000 specified premises". However, when years ago the mobile-TV licence issue was being discussed in the Legislative Council, the papers submitted by the government stated clearly that it did not propose to amend the Broadcasting Ordinance and bring mobile-TV services under its regulation.


Now the Communications Authority is applying the ordinance to HKTV's mobile-TV services. This is a de facto policy change. Moreover, as Wong has pointed out, when mobile-TV services were provided by China Mobile's subsidiary, whose transmissions could reach 90 percent of the population, the government did not attempt to impose any regulations; however, with Wong's acquisition of the mobile-TV licence, the government is taking steps to bind his hands with the Broadcasting Ordinance. Wong believes the government is applying the law differently to different people.


Hong Kong has traditionally upheld the principle of equality before the law. What is happening to Wong and HKTV is foreign to our experience. Today's Hong Kong is no longer the Hong Kong that so many of us knew so well. To put it simply, we see in the HKTV case the rule of man. The rule of law appears to have slipped far, far away.


The many hurdles put in Wong's way show that the powers that be are making every effort to prevent the expansion of the TV industry. And the measures they have taken are so unreasonable that one cannot but wonder: What is happening to Hong Kong? This is a question which we believe many people are asking.


(Photo added by Chen-t'ang, source from Delight Media Hong Kong)

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