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HKTVN's license-denial does not help Hong Kong

Stefan Hammond | Oct. 24, 2013
For decades, Hong Kong has had two free-to-air channels, each broadcasting one English-language and one Cantonese channel. Recently, the Executive Council decided to increase the number, but their decision has provoked sharp public criticism.

Denying an extra outlet limits possibilities for exhibition of films showcasing Hong Kong's past and present. That's why Hong Kong's Director's Guild gave a press conference to discuss the HKTV license-denial--filmmakers including Ng See-yuen (3`), Derek Yee Tung-shing (>¬^) and Alfred Cheung Kin-ting (5­) questioned the decision publicly.

Hong Kong films are part of its heritage, and television stations in the HKSAR often show them--in Cantonese, and often with Chinese and English subtitles. Local films demonstrate Chinese culture and many Westerners have a better understanding of Hong Kong and greater China because of the local film industry.

Lack of transparency
"Hong Kong's communications industry has always benefitted from the government's open and objective policy decision mechanism," wrote Mok, who called for the government to "disclose the reasons for its decision and not use [the] 'ExCo confidentiality clause' as its defence. Otherwise, our rule of law will be relegated to the rule of one man, not to mention that it will be a slap on the face to all of us who want to develop our creative industry."

As Mok pointed out, ExCo has a confidentiality clause. But Hong Kong's creative industries and myriad IT vectors have been affected by what appears to be a capricious awarding of broadcast licenses. Along with many others, I believe the government should step forward and explain their rationale.

Reconsider the decision
And I also believe the government should reverse their decision and issue a license to HKTVN. Are we so shuttered in our judgements that we cannot stand another television station to air opinions? We are not. Hong Kongers are perfectly capable of deciding what they want to watch on television, and if the former Broadcasting Authority recommended to ExCo that HKTVN be granted a license, then that decision should be examined. Issuing the license would be in keeping with public opinion—much as the policy-reversal on "national education" last year also reflected the will of the people.

Perhaps HKTV will air Hong Kong films that may have no other outlet. It's the least the HKSAR government can do for an industry which has helped put Hong Kong on the map. Perhaps HKTV will air more shows subtitled in English. This may help reverse the slide in Hong Kong's English-language standards. Perhaps HKTV will air talk shows where controversial opinions are aired. That's what happens in a free society—and as ever, OFTA will oversee processes and handle public complaints if offensive programming is aired. These processes have been in place for decades.

If public policy is increasingly determined by "consultancy reports," then Hong Kongers will lose faith in the integrity of those public policies. Hong Kong is not governed by consultants, but by government officials who—in a few years time—will be elected by universal suffrage.

It's time for the administration to come clean on this particular issue and start putting more effort into boosting Hong Kong's IT and creative industries, rather than holding them back.


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