Thursday, August 21, 2014   




Temporary retreat but Wong not giving up

Wednesday, November 06, 2013

Mary Ma

The government splashed out a lengthy, six-page statement on the Executive Council's decision to reject Hong Kong Television's bid for a free-to-air license.

But has it helped the public understand the matter better? I fear not.

Yesterday's statement is nothing more than a remastering of the words that government officials had used in the past week or two.

Today, the Legislative Council will vote on a motion to invoke its special powers to investigate the Exco decision.

While the statement failed to help improve the public's understanding, it could suggest that following days of Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying personally lobbying lawmakers, the government is confident it has enough support to defeat the motion.

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Otherwise, the six pages wouldn't have been so wishy-washy. At the very most, they may provide a face-saving ladder for a climbdown by some undecided pro-establishment lawmakers.

Having seen the issue developing so far, it's apparent HKTV boss Ricky Wong Wai-kay has resigned himself to the political reality that he isn't going to get a license - no matter how loudly he declares "war" on the chief executive.

In fact, Wong's tone seems to be shifting. First, he offered to drop his threat to sue the government if it was willing to explain the Exco move publicly. Then he said yesterday he may shut down HKTV in six months should a new project fail to pan out.

It's the first time Wong has pondered a possible closure of his company. That's typical of what a businessman would do.

It can be expected that after the Legco powers and privileges motion is rejected, the noise over the TV license will subside. That will be a turning point.

But it's unrealistic to think everything will be fine. That's not the never- say-die character that Wong is known for in the business world - bearing in mind that he still has a number of options.

Will he proceed with his threat to take the government to court?

Also, he said that for the time being, he has no plans to buy ATV. Note the words "for the time being."

Meanwhile, he can continue playing the role of a watchdog, monitoring ATV's performance and criticizing it for not improving.

He also alluded to a new project. But what is it?

Since his election, Leung's popularity has continued plunging. The free- to-air TV license fiasco has forced his ratings down further. Even if he doesn't particularly care personally, it nevertheless bodes ill for governance.

While Leung couldn't have mistaken the position that Beijing may be taking on the licensing issue, his handling of it couldn't have been clumsier.

But looking forward, the controversy may fade in the near term after today's Legco debate. But it would be wishful thinking to expect the row not to resurface in the medium term - especially since the two existing free-to- air licenses held by TVB and ATV are due for review in 2015.

As they say in the West, it ain't over until the fat lady sings.


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