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Sun Fang sinks teeth into TV

New web gives HK more info about China

HONG KONG — A Hong Kong businessman with no media experience has launched a successful China-skewed channel for Hong Kong auds — on just $2 million.

Sun Fang, who has a background in degradable plastics, debuted his China Travel and Economic Channel (CTEC) on the island’s dominant paybox Cable TV in May.

CTEC airs 12 hours of programming, upping to 18 at the end of August. As the channel’s name suggests, it provides economic information on cities and provinces for businesspeople and focuses on far-flung places would-be tourists may have scant knowledge of as well as the changes occurring in cities.

The 43-year-old believes viewers need more information about China. “Hong Kong people want to know whether business opportunities on the mainland are real or fake,” he says. “China is a big country, and if it wants to be an international player, it must show itself as a tourism destination.”

Sun has certainly filled a gap in the market: Of 36 channels on Cable TV, only four are broadcast in Mandarin or are China-skewed.

And CTEC is doing so well he is mulling selling the channel’s programs to China’s pubcaster CCTV.

Beijing-born Sun spent a year traveling through China, discovering its remote corners and its ethnic minorities. He was feted by local government officials eager to promote their cities.

Sun admits that provinces or airlines with no promotion budgets found other ways to pay him, such as free airline tickets. But he sees no conflict in the fact that sponsors are also subjects. Rather, he sees it as a great business arrangement.

The channel’s production center is located in Shenzhen — the special economic zone across the border from Hong Kong — that helps to cut costs.

And he boasts of paying low wages to staff in return for giving them permission to interview anyone from ex-presidents to CEOs.

Hong Kong’s status as a middleman between China and the rest of the world is precarious after China’s entrance to the World Trade Organization last year. Sun’s channel may help to break down the barriers between the two areas.

“I want Hong Kong people to know more about China,” he says. “And this will continuously remind people of China’s tourism and economic potential.”

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