Farewell ATV as its survival fight ends

Local | Flora Chung 1 Apr 2016

Hong Kong's oldest TV station, Asia Television, goes off the air tonight after entertaining millions over the past 59 years the first free-to-air broadcaster to lose its TV license.

As the clock strikes midnight, ATV staff will turn off the main switch cutting transmission for the station's channels 11, 12, 13, 15, 16 and 17 and two analog television program channels and thereby bring an end to the world's first Chinese-language television broadcaster.

RTHK, which will take over ATV's two analog spectrums, will stand by to turn the switch on again, once ATV has gone off the air.

Viewers will not need to change channels or rescan the analog channels of their television sets as the two from ATV will automatically be switched to "RTHK TV31" and "RTHK TV33."

They only have to select the channel numbers which are originally preset for ATV's analog television program channels on their television sets from the early hours of April 2.

However, their televisions may receive a short blank screen as it is expected to take about 10 minutes for the signals to be transferred.

ATV's last program on the Chinese channel, which will mark the end of the long-troubled station, will be broadcast at 10.50pm today a travel show filmed in France three years ago to celebrate the 25th anniversary of ATV's Miss Asia Pageant.

Established as the first television service in Hong Kong under the name of Rediffusion Television on May 29, 1957, the 59-year-old station shifted from a cable television broadcaster to terrestrial television on November 30, 1973. It was renamed Asia Television on September 24, 1982.

Throughout the years, ATV has experienced several ownership shifts. The station is said to have experienced its "golden era" when it was owned by the late Hong Kong tycoon Deacon Chiu Te-ken from 1982 to 1988 as he was the only owner ever to turn the perennially troubled broadcaster into a profitable venture. The station's ratings were also the highest at that time.

However, in its final years, as the station's main competitor, TVB, became the predominant ratings leader in Hong Kong, and when the station began to cater more to the interests of a mainland audience, its viewing figures as well as the entire business started to decline.

As the station had been constantly failing to pay its staff on time since 2014, the government announced last year that it would not renew ATV's free-to-air license, which expires at midnight.

Just before the Lunar New Year, a large number of employees walked out after not being paid their December and January wages as promised.

This forced ATV's Cantonese and English news programs to go off the air, in violation of the Broadcasting Ordinance.

On the same day, Wong Ching, ATV's major creditor, filed for liquidation of the company.

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