Hong Kong Television Union Plans New Protests Over License Snub

Hong Kong Television Network Ltd. workers called for a new round of protests demanding Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying explain the rejection of the company’s license application.

The staff members ended a week-long protest at government headquarters yesterday and vowed to return on Nov. 6, when lawmakers are scheduled to debate a motion to probe the decision, the company’s union said in an Oct. 26 statement posted on its Facebook page.

HKTV cut about 320 workers after the government snubbed its application in favor of PCCW Ltd. and I-Cable Communications Ltd. on Oct. 15. Tens of thousands of Hong Kongers joined the protest over the week, reflecting concerns over government accountability and freedom of expression in the semi-autonomous Chinese city. HKTV plans to file for a judicial review, Chairman Ricky Wong said on Oct. 22.

“The issue is definitely not over, rather it’s the beginning of a new stage,” the union said in its statement. “We thank the support of the public and hope to seek justice together.”

Leung has said that the government will explain its decision in court. The free-to-air television permits awarded on Oct. 15 were the first in almost 40 years, increasing competition for existing operators Television Broadcasts Ltd. and Asia Television Ltd.

I-Cable’s Fantastic Television will start free broadcasts within three months from the formal granting of its license, Ming Pao Daily News reported today, citing a company announcement. It plans to have coverage for 95 percent of Hong Kong households within 12 months from the start of the service, Ming Pao said.

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Three calls to I-Cable’s external affairs department outside of business hours weren’t answered.

Advertisers spent an estimated HK$13 billion ($1.7 billion) in Hong Kong in 2012, with television accounting for about a third of that, Bank of America Corp.’s Merrill Lynch unit said in a February report, citing Magna Global.

Discontent is rising in the former British colony as a record wealth gap and a doubling of property prices in four years squeeze workers. Massive street protests led to the reversal of a controversial national identity curriculum last year. Former Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa resigned in 2005 after as many as half a million people took to the streets against a proposed anti-subversion law.

Rising inequality has driven down poll ratings for Leung, the city’s last leader to be chosen by a committee of business and professional groups before universal suffrage promised in 2017. Hong Kong, which was returned to China in 1997, is a Special Administrative Region guaranteed its own freedoms and legal system for 50 years as part of the handover agreement.

Leung was picked by a committee of executives, professionals and lawmakers for a five-year term, with China promising universal suffrage in 2017. Opposition lawmakers failed in a no-confidence motion against Leung on on Oct. 16.

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