Government greenlights new broadcaster

HONG KONG — The Hong Kong government Wednesday greenlit a new radio broadcaster, only the territory’s fourth.

After several months of public consultation, the Chief Executive in Council and the Broadcast Authority approved in principle the application of Wave Media for a 12-year license to run a 24-hour Cantonese-language AM net.

Wave’s schedule includes 30 hours a week of programming it describes as “harmonious society” content. License requires Wave to begin transmission within 24 months.

Hong Kong has three licensed radio operators — pubcaster Radio Television Hong Kong, HK Commercial Radio and Li Ka Shing’s Metro Radio.

The granting of the Wave license comes at a time when there is still uncertainty over the status of rival Citizens’ Radio and the legal powers of the Broadcast Authority (Variety, Feb. 29).

For years the government has been fighting an on-off battle with Citizens’ Radio, a talk channel that has been denied an FM license and occasionally broadcasts on frequencies occupied by commercial group Metro Radio.

In January Citizens’ Radio challenged the government in court and earned a shock victory when the court ruled that the HK Chief Executive office’s monopoly on granting broadcasting licenses was unconstitutional. Its appeal is due to go to court in September.

Citizens’ Radio has returned to the airwaves for a few hours at a time and the Broadcast Authority has responded by seeking injunctions and threatening more charges.

Wave, which is backed by pillars of the establishment, is not expected to have any such problems.

Its board of directors includes legislator Albert Cheng, former education chief Arthur Li, executive counselor Ronald Arculli and David Li, the banker and former executive counselor who paid $8.1 million to settle insider dealing charges in the Wall Street Journal takeover case.

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