The Communications Authority regulator said that ATV had been guilty of multiple breaches of its license conditions, including the failure to broadcast mandatory news programs and the failure to pay its license fees on time.
The license will be suspended for 30 days beginning in April, when the company is anyway due to stop broadcasting. The government announced last year that ATV will lose its broadcast permit.
“With less than six weeks to go before the expiry of ATV’s existing free TV license on April 1, 2016, it may appear pointless for the CA to sanction a beleaguered and cash-strapped ATV, whose management and staff have been struggling, after all, to maintain a minimum level of service notwithstanding ATV’s financial predicament,” the regulator said in a statement.
“The situation facing ATV has indeed put the CA in a considerable dilemma. On balance, the CA’s considered view is that, as an independent regulator for the broadcasting sector, it is duty bound to perform its statutory function of regulating the broadcasting industry in accordance with the relevant statutory/license provisions, and in face of contraventions by licensees, to impose sanctions which are commensurate with the nature and severity of the breaches,” the CA spokesman said.
“Of equal importance if not more, turning a blind eye to, or imposing sanction that is not commensurate with the nature and severity of the breaches, would send a wrong message to the broadcasting sector, that a beleaguered and cash-strapped licensee would be given a carte blanche to contravene the BO and licence conditions no end with little consequence. This is totally unacceptable from a regulatory perspective,” the CA spokesman said.
ATV, Hong Kong’s oldest broadcaster, has been unable to extricate itself from financial and ownership problems that have dogged it for the past five years. New backers have come and gone – the false announcement of one earned ATV a sanction from the regulator – and debts have mounted, making the company an ever less attractive investment.
In recent months staff have repeatedly been paid late. Just before Chinese New Year that led most of ATV’s news staff to quit, leaving the company unable to meet its obligation to produce twice daily news shows in Chinese and English.