Frustration builds online after Oscars TV no-show

Top News | Amy Nip and Moon Lam 30 Mar 2021

Local television stations shunning the Academy Awards for the first time in 52 years highlights Hong Kong's adoption of mainland standards, online users say.

The Standard reported in an exclusive yesterday that TVB will not broadcast the Oscars next month, breaking the tradition of airing the awards on Pearl every year since 1969.

Now TV, Viu TV, Cable TV and Open TV also said they did not buy the rights, meaning there will be no local stations broadcasting the event on April 26.

Although TVB stressed it is purely a commercial decision not to broadcast the Oscars, some people are not convinced.

"Are Hong Kong TV stations brought under the jurisdiction of the central government's propaganda department?" veteran radio host Poon Siu-to said.

He was referring to a Bloomberg report earlier this month that the propaganda department ordered all mainland media outlets not to broadcast the Oscars live and play down coverage after two films were nominated.

One is Do Not Split, a 35-minute documentary directed by Norwegian Anders Hammer covering the 2019 anti-fugitive bill protests in Hong Kong.

The other is Nomadland, which received six award nominations, including best motion picture. Chloe Zhao, its Beijing-born director, was criticized by state media for her comments on China.

The latest development showed Hong Kong is no different from the mainland, online users said. "Hong Kong is a Chinese financial center, a Chinese SAR, a Chinese city. I am not surprised," a Facebook user wrote.

Former leader Deng Xiaoping promised "horse racing and dancing will continue" after the 1997 handover, but now Hongkongers can't even watch TV programs, a forum user of Lihkg posted.

Frustrations were vented on Twitter as well. "One country, one system," one tweeted.

Political commentator Bruce Lui Ping-kuen said broadcasters may worry they cannot control content. "If the politically sensitive movies win the awards, winners may say something which the government considers to be unacceptable," he said.

On all TV stations skipping the live airing of the awards show, Lui said: "It is either a coincidence or they all received a very clear instruction. It is up to the public to decide which is the case."

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