Sunday, November 29, 2015   

Survival drama

Alfred Liu and Adele Wong

Friday, December 05, 2008


Troubled ATV has pulled in two big names from the telecoms industry to take control of the station in a bid to turn its fortunes round.

The free-to-air broadcaster has appointed City Telecom (1137) chairman Ricky Wong Wai-kay as chief executive and former deputy chairman of PCCW (0008) Linus Cheung Wing- lam as executive chairman.

"Reform is a must and actually should have been done five or 10 years ago," Cheung said.

Losses were "astronomical," he said, estimating the total at more than HK$5 billion over the years.

Wong said the station - a long-time laggard in the local TV market - needs to solve many problems.

ATV will target the middle- to upper- income groups and plans to have more variety in its programming. The broadcaster has long been recognized as pro- Beijing, but Wong hopes the station will be more Hong Kong-styled.

Staff morale at the station is known to be low, however, amid fears of job cuts.

The new bosses said they will need to analyze the situation before making any decisions on almost 1,000 employees.

"We need two to three months' to understand more about the company's operation," Wong said. "We don't want to tell lies or guarantee that we are not cutting any jobs."

The new executives did not respond to questions on whether the station's major shareholder, the Cha family, will inject capital into the company, saying only that "ATV should not rely on its shareholders for money. We have to stand on our own."

Wong, also chairman of CTI, said the station has no plans to list on the stock market through a backdoor listing by the telecom company. "It would be a lie if I told you that we want to list the company now under the current market situation," he added.

The post of executive chairman is new while Wong takes over from Ho Ting-kwan, who was acting chief executive.

Wong, meanwhile, said he had dreams of becoming a media tycoon and believes he has contributed enough to the local telecom industry after 16 years working in the field.

After graduating from the Chinese University of Hong Kong with a science degree, Wong had a brief stint as a marketing representative at a major computer company from 1985 to 1989, before moving on to co-found a computer systems import and distribution company in Canada.

He co-founded CTI in 1992 with first cousin Paul Cheung Chi-kin, originally starting as an IDD services reseller, but quickly moving on to provide broadband internet to homes and companies.

"I hope my dream of merging the telecom business with television will be realized," he said. "The situation at ATV is harsh but we don't carry any baggage in this sense."

Wong had a remuneration of HK$8.7 million last year from CTI and expects the amount to be reduced after taking up the post. ATV and Hong Kong Broadband Network, owned by CTI, will remain independent.

He said his appointment as chief executive had not violated the broadcasting ordinance as HKBN is an internet platform, not a pay television business.

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